Few Strategies for Dealing With Debilitating Fatigue Offered to Cancer Patients.

In a new study published in Supportive Care in Cancer researchers reported that many people who have been through cancer and its treatments have severe, debilitating fatigue that can last for months or years and is not being addresse4d by many doctors.  Researchers found that few of the available treatment strategies are prescribed by doctors. Regular physical exercise such as walking has been shown to reduce fatigue. In addition, learning stress management and coping mechanisms can increase restfuless.  Only one-tenth of the subjects said their oncologist team instructed them to become more active or try other non-medication-related fatigue-reducing approaches. However, more than 35% of the subjects had been offered sleep-enhancing medications, even though drugs have been shown to be the least effective approach.Researchers said “Fatigue is a factor that not only significantly diminishes quality of life but is also associated with reduced survival. ..Our results suggest that cancer patients are not receiving appropriate treatment for a significant and widespread problem.”

One hundred sixty stage IV cancer patients, men and women, with moderate to severe fatigue measured by a greater than 5 on an 11 point scale were queried by researchers. Subjects with lung, breast, colon, or prostate cancer were asked whether their oncologist had discussed any of the cancer-fatigue treatments recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines and the extent of the information they received ,  and whether the physician had provided specific counseling, instructions, and recommendations or a prescription to address fatigue.

Cancer types were associated with whether subjects received treatment for fatigue. Only 15 percent of patients with colon cancer and 17 percent with prostate cancer had their fatigue addressed whereas 48 percent of breast cancer patients had been advised of psychosocial intervent9ons.   Researchers found that the majority of subjects were not engaged in behavioral practices that could reduce fatigue and potentially enhance the quality of life. “And about a third reported napping during the day, which can actually worsen fatigue.? Researchers concluded “We could be doing a much better job addressing fatigue, with more reliable instructions for patients and offering treatments that have been shown to work.”

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