Patients' perspectives of fatigue while undergoing chemotherapy

Oncol Nurs Forum. 1997 Jan-Feb;24(1):43-8.


Purpose/objectives: To explore the experience of fatigue from the perspective of patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Design: Qualitative research and secondary analysis of data from a larger study.

Setting: Participants were recruited from 18 sites, including large outpatient chemotherapy clinics and private medical oncologists' offices.

Sample: 127 adult patients who were beginning their first protocol of chemotherapy.

Methods: Data were collected through individual and open-ended interviews and a qualitative, thematic analysis of the participants' responses using grounded theory techniques.

Main research variable: The experience of fatigue as perceived by patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Findings: The analysis resulted in eight major thematic categories: (a) experiencing fatigue, (b) effects on well-being, (c) attribution of origin, (d) awareness and expectations, (e) emotional reactions, (f) activity, (g) the "biggest" concern, and (h) strategies and plans.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the variation, extent, duration, and temporality of fatigue among patients receiving chemotherapy and the dynamic, changing aspects of the experience.

Implications for nursing practice: Fatigue must be considered within the context of patients' daily lives and environments, disease processes, and treatment modalities. Nurses must listen carefully to patients' own descriptions of being tired. Further research examining patients' perspectives of and experiences related to fatigue is necessary to increase the theoretical understanding of fatigue and to improve therapeutic nursing interventions.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Awareness
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Emotions
  • Fatigue / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Assessment


  • Antineoplastic Agents