Cancer-related fatigue: "It's so much more than just being tired"

Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2007 Apr;11(2):117-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2006.04.037. Epub 2006 Jul 7.


Fatigue is highly prevalent among persons with cancer and has great impact on their lives. The cancer-related fatigue (CRF) experience is subjective and multidimensional; understanding it from the individual's perspective is essential. This qualitative study explored the meaning of CRF from the individual's perspective. A phenomenological approach, embodiment, served as the philosophical framework. The study was conducted in a freestanding outpatient cancer clinic in a major metropolitan area. Ten cancer patients who were undergoing chemotherapy received audio-tape recorded semi-structured individual interviews and six completed a 2-week daily diary keeping activity. Data analysis proceeded through reduction methodology to seek commonalities in meanings, situations, and embodied experiences. The analysis resulted in the following thematic categories: different fatigue, physical sensations, "I cannot...", emotional sensations, gaining sense of control, fatigue as holistic experience. Participants described fatigue of an unexpected kind and degree that was much more than just being tired. Their inability to anticipate the scope of CRF and lack of awareness of strategies to combat CRF distressed some participants. Various individual strategies, based on personal experience, were developed to regain a sense of control. Health care providers can be instrumental in enabling cancer patients to recognize and manage CRF.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Image
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Life Change Events
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / complications
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / drug therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires