Although technologic advances and insights into the mechanisms of cancer and cancer treatments have resulted in hope of increased survival and even cure in many cancer populations, parallel efforts to promote quality of life through a commitment to rehabilitation and aggressive palliation have lagged. Recent studies have demonstrated fatigue to be the most distressing phenomenon experienced by cancer patients. This article examines fatigue from a rehabilitation perspective. Application of innovations in therapeutic exercise training, diet therapy, sleep therapy, cognitive therapy, and pharmacologic therapy and their attendant rationales are discussed. From clinical as well as research perspectives of palliation and rehabilitation, the manifestations of fatigue are better appreciated if fatigue is conceptualized as a syndrome, namely, cancer-related fatigue syndrome (CRFS). Experience of CRFS by cancer patients, regardless of their diagnosis, stage of disease, treatment regimen, or age, influences all aspects of quality of life and aggravates the experience of other distressing symptoms such as pain, nausea, and dyspnea. Understanding the underlying mechanisms for energy loss and gain, as well as the relationship between the right amount and type of activity and sleep, can lead toward more effective and innovative rehabilitation programs. Development of research based clinical interventions in these areas holds promise for significant improvement in functioning and quality of life for cancer survivors and may constitute valuable rehabilitative techniques that can be adjunctive to standard therapies.
Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.