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Long-Term Fatigue Plagues Cancer Survivors

Researchers found effects last well after therapy ends

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Half a year after their treatment ends, breast cancer survivors still report more days of fatigue and more intense fatigue than their peers.

The fatigue is likely a long-term effect of chemotherapy, according to a recent study.

Fatigue is a common complaint for most people and is also reported by cancer patients. Previous studies of the two populations have not been conclusive in determining the rates of fatigue in both groups due to poor study design. The study, to be published in the Oct. 15 issue of Cancer, is the first to scientifically compare fatigue in closely matched groups of cancer survivors and their peers.

A team of researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., followed 221 women with early stage breast cancer at two months, four months and six months after treatment. Of that group, 121 received radiation treatment, and 100 received a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. The researchers also analyzed data from 221 women of similar age and geographic origins.

Even though they expected to find that fatigue decreased over time, the researchers found that even at six months after treatment, cancer survivors reported intense and long periods of fatigue. Further analysis showed that fatigue was worst among women who had received both radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

According to lead researcher Dr. Paul Jacobsen, these results highlight an important quality of life issue for breast cancer survivors. He called for research into ways physicians can help patients during and after treatment to prevent or limit later fatigue. For example, exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue in breast cancer survivors, the researchers noted.

More information

For some ideas about managing fatigue during cancer treatment, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Sept. 10, 2007

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