Fatigue and radiotherapy: (B) experience in patients 9 months following treatment

Br J Cancer. 1998 Oct;78(7):907-12. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1998.600.


Little is known regarding the prevalence and course of fatigue in cancer patients after treatment has ended and no recurrence found. The present study examines fatigue in disease-free cancer patients after being treated with radiotherapy (n = 154). The following questions are addressed. First, how do patients describe their fatigue 9 months after radiotherapy and is this different from fatigue in a nonselective sample from the general population (n = 139)? Secondly, to what degree is fatigue in patients associated with sociodemographic, medical, physical and psychological factors? Finally, is it possible to predict which patients will suffer from fatigue 9 months after radiotherapy? Results indicated that fatigue in disease-free cancer patients did not differ significantly from fatigue in the general population. However, for 34% of the patients, fatigue following treatment was worse than anticipated, 39% listed fatigue as one of the three symptoms causing them most distress, 26% of patients worried about their fatigue and patients' overall quality of life was negatively related to fatigue (r = -0.46). Fatigue in disease-free patients was significantly associated with: gender, physical distress, pain rating, sleep quality, functional disability, psychological distress and depression, but not with medical (diagnosis, prognosis, co-morbidity) or treatment-related (target area, total radiation dose, fractionation) variables. The degree of fatigue, functional disability and pain before radiotherapy were the best predictors of fatigue at 9-month follow-up, explaining 30%, 3% and 4% of the variance respectively. These findings are in line with the associations found with fatigue during treatment as reported in the preceding paper in this issue. The significant associations between fatigue and both psychological and physical variables demonstrate the complex aetiology of this symptom in patients and point out the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach for its treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors