Fatigue is No. 1 cancer side effect

May 1, 1997
Pharmaceutical Representative

Cancer affects a patient's ability to work, meet family needs and cope with the disease, according to a nationwide survey of cancer patients conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide for The Fatigue Coalition, New York.

Cancer affects a patient's ability to work, meet family needs and cope with the disease, according to a nationwide survey of cancer patients conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide for The Fatigue Coalition, New York.

The survey found that 78% of cancer patients experience fatigue during the course of their disease, with more than half (53%) saying they experience fatigue on most days, if not every day.

The national survey of 419 patients, 197 U.S.-based oncologists and 200 caregivers was designed to document the incidence and impact of fatigue during a cancer patient's course of therapy.

Although physicians said they were aware of fatigue and the impact it can have on their patients' lives, the survey found that physicians and patients are having difficulty communicating about fatigue.

Nearly one-third of patients (31%) claim they mention fatigue on every visit to their physician, while only 6% of physicians believe it is mentioned that frequently.

Eight in 10 physicians surveyed believe that fatigue is overlooked and undertreated as a side effect of cancer. But less than half of all physicians and cancer patients discuss fatigue, and even fewer are treating it.

Sixty-one percent of cancer patients say that fatigue adversely affects their ability to work, while 51% say that they are unable to do their usual activities because of fatigue.

The majority of patients claim that fatigue affects their everyday lives, physically and emotionally. Forty-two percent responded that fatigue negatively impacts their ability to take care of their families, while 29% say they have difficulty just getting out of bed. Another 24% are fatigued to the point where they cannot even eat.

Psychologically, fatigue also takes a tremendous toll. Fifty-seven percent of patients surveyed are unable to enjoy life fully because of fatigue, and 31% say fatigue affects their hope of successfully fighting the illness. Some 16% of cancer patients surveyed said treating their fatigue was as important as treating the cancer itself.

In response to this survey, The Fatigue Coalition will develop a series of educational and research initiatives designed to help patients, physicians and other practitioners understand the onset, duration and progression of fatigue and how to intervene successfully with the cancer patient.

The Fatigue Coalition is a multidisciplinary group of medical practitioners, researchers and patient advocates from institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the University of Chicago and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. PR