Fatigue is a common, distressing and debilitating symptom experienced by people with cancer. In those receiving palliative care it is probably the most frequently reported symptom and is experienced by more than 90 per cent of these patient. However, it represents the most commonly unrelieved cancer symptom. Cancer related fatigue can have a number of factors that can be difficult to establish, however despite these problems advancing research will help to promote the problem as a palliative care symptom that can be assessed and managed.
In patients with advanced cancer, the prevalence rates of various symptoms are approximately as follows
Pain 89% Fatigue 69% Weakness 66% Anorexia 66% Lack of energy 61% Nausea 60%
Dry mouth 57% Constipation 52% Dyspnoea 50% Vomiting 30%. (Donnelly 1995)
Defining Cancer-Related Fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue is a complex phenomenon with physical, cognitive and affective methods of expression. A clear understanding of what it means is essential before it can be assessed and managed, or healthcare Assistants are able to discuss it with patients and colleagues. After exploring fatigue from the perspective of patients, Ream (1996) derived the following definition: 'a subjective, unpleasant symptom which incorporates feelings ranging from tiredness to exhaustion, creating an unrelenting overall condition which interferes with
References: Donnelly S, Walsh D.(1995) The symptoms of advanced cancer. Semin Oncol 1995; 22(2 suppl 3):67–72. Johnson, C. (1992). Coping with compassion fatigue. Nursing, 22(4), 116, 118-120. Ream E. (2007) Fatigue in patients Nursing Stand.2007: 21(28)49-56