The rapid assessment of fatigue severity in cancer patients: use of the Brief Fatigue Inventory

Cancer. 1999 Mar 1;85(5):1186-96. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19990301)85:5<1186::aid-cncr24>;2-n.


Background: Fatigue is a major disease and treatment burden for cancer patients. Several scales have been created to measure fatigue, but many are long and difficult for very ill patients to complete, or they are not easy to translate for non-English speaking patients. The Brief Fatigue Inventory was developed for the rapid assessment of fatigue severity for use in both clinical screening and clinical trials.

Methods: The study enrolled 305 consecutive, consenting adult inpatients and outpatients with cancer who could understand and complete the self-report measures used in the study. The same instruments also were administered to 290 community-dwelling adults to obtain a comparison sample. Research staff completed a form that indicated the primary site and stage of the cancer, rated the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of the patient, described the characteristics of the pain, and described the current pain treatment being provided to the patients.

Results: The BFI was shown to be an internally stable (reliable) measure that tapped a single dimension, best interpreted as severity of fatigue. It correlated highly with similar fatigue measures. Greater than 98% of patients were able to complete it. A range of scores defining severe fatigue was identified.

Conclusions: The BFI is a reliable instrument that allows for the rapid assessment of fatigue level in cancer patients and identifies those patients with severe fatigue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires