Although breast cancer-related fatigue is common, it generally runs a self-limiting course and does not persist as long as people had thought; especially in cases of early-stage breast cancer, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The authors explained that long-term fatigue, which is often disabling, is common after patients undergo treatment for cancer. However, they added that studies had not extensively looked at how persistent CRF (cancer-related fatigue) was; i.e. how common long-term CRF might be.

In an Abstract in the journal, the researchers wrote:

“. . . hence, relationships to cancer, surgery, and adjuvant therapy
are unclear. “

Dr. David Goldstein, of Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Australia, and team set out to determine how common cancer-related fatigue was one year after treatment.

Their prospective cohort study involved 218 adult females with early stage breast cancer who were receiving adjuvant treatment. They were enrolled after undergoing surgery and were observed when treatment was completed, and then again 1, 3, 6, 9 and 60 months later.

Each participant was interviewed regularly; they were also asked to complete questionnaires regarding their physical and psychological health, including disability and their use of health care treatments and services.

Those with cancer-related fatigue that continued at six months were assessed, so that psychiatric and alternative medical causes of fatigue could be excluded.

The following data was gathered and reported:

  • 24% of patients suffered from cancer-related fatigue after surgery
  • 31% of the women experienced cancer-related fatigue at the end of treatment
  • 11% of the participants experienced cancer-related fatigue at 6 months
  • 6% of them still had cancer-related fatigue at 12 months
  • At post-surgery, end of treatment, 6 months and 12 months points, at least on third of them had comorbid mood disturbances
  • Tumor size was a predictor for cancer-related fatigue
  • Demographics, surgical parameters, as well as psychological and hematologic factors were not predictors of cancer-related fatigue
  • Cancer-related fatigue was found to be linked to considerable disability

The authors concluded in an Abstract in the same journal:

“CRF is common but generally runs a self-limiting course. Much of the previously reported high rates of persistent CRF may be attributable to factors unrelated to the cancer or its treatment.”