Background: Fatigue is one of the most common problems experienced by cancer patients. The factors most frequently reported to correlate with cancer-related fatigue are symptom distress (pain, nausea/vomiting, dyspnea, and lack of appetite) and psychological distress (depression and anxiety).
Aims: This study was performed to examine the overall association of symptom and psychological distress with cancer-related fatigue using systematic literature review and meta-analysis. This study also aimed to determine which factors have a higher correlation with fatigue, and therefore should receive nursing priority.
Methods: A meta-analysis of 30 primary studies identified by searching computer databases, which included MEDLINE, PubMed, and CINAHL.
Results: Results showed that all symptoms (pain, dyspnea, nausea/vomiting, and lack of appetite) and psychological distress (depression and anxiety) included had a significant association with cancer-related fatigue with medium-to-large effect sizes, which were estimated using correlation coefficients. The overall correlations of psychological distress with cancer-related fatigue were found to be higher than those of symptom distress. The correlation of nausea/vomiting with cancer-related fatigue was higher than those of pain and dyspnea.
Conclusions and implications: Our findings highlight the importance of psychological distress in dealing with cancer-related fatigue in addition to the need to be attentive to a patient's symptom distress. Of the symptom distress, nausea/vomiting should be prioritized by nurses when managing cancer-related fatigue. This study provides sound empirical evidence that can be used to draft guidelines for the management of cancer-related fatigue.
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