Fatigue after treatment for early stage breast cancer

A controlled comparison




Evidence suggests that fatigue may be a greater problem for cancer survivors than people without cancer. The present study sought to determine whether fatigue was greater in women who had completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer relative to a demographically matched comparison group of women with no cancer history.


As part of a larger study, women with stage 0-II breast cancer were recruited before the start of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (n = 100) or radiotherapy only (n = 121). Fatigue was assessed at the end of treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months later. An age- and geographically matched sample of women with no history of cancer was recruited and assessed for comparison purposes.


Relative to comparison subjects, breast cancer survivors reported more days of fatigue in the past week at all 4 study assessments (P < .05). These differences appeared to be clinically meaningful in that a greater percentage of patients than nonpatients earned scores in the abnormal range on this measure at each assessment (P < .05). Additional analyses indicated that differences in fatigue between patients and comparison subjects were attributable primarily to heightened fatigue in women who received both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


Findings suggest that fatigue is a greater problem for breast cancer survivors in the 6 months after completion of chemotherapy than for women with no cancer history. Future research should include longer-term follow-up to determine the persistence of fatigue in this population of survivors. Cancer 2007. © 2007 American Cancer Society.