Fatigue in disease-free cancer patients compared with fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

Support Care Cancer. 2001 Jan;9(1):11-7. doi: 10.1007/s005200000165.


The goal of our work was to assess fatigue in disease-free cancer patients with help of a validated fatigue questionnaire. Furthermore, we wished to analyse the relationship between severe fatigue and former treatment modalities, problems of concentration and motivation, physical activity, functional impairment, depression and anxiety and finally, to compare severely fatigued disease-free cancer patients and patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The participants were 85 adult cancer patients and 16 patients with CFS. The cancer patients were all disease-free and had been off treatment for a minimum of 6 months. They were asked to participate in this study by their physician when they came to the hospital for control visits. Patients who were willing to participate completed four questionnaires. The Checklist Individual Strength was used to measure fatigue. In addition, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Nottingham Health Profile were used. Results indicate that 19% of the disease-free cancer patients were severely fatigued. Their fatigue experience is comparable to that of patients with CFS. Severe fatigue is associated with problems of concentration and motivation, reduced physical activity, emotional health problems and pain. Furthermore, a relation was found between fatigue and depression and anxiety. No relation was found between fatigue and type of cancer, former treatment modalities, duration of treatment and time since treatment ended. In conclusion, for one fifth of a group of disease-free cancer patients fatigue is a severe problem long after treatment. In addition to fatigue, these patients experience several psychological and physical problems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / pathology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Quality of Life