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Study takes a step toward better defining fatigue
Date:5/15/2008

PHILADELPHIA - In an effort to better define and ultimately address fatigue more effectively, a qualitative study from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has identified three primary themes - loss of strength or energy, major effects of fatigue and associated sensations - among patients being treated with standard radiation therapy.

Presenting today at the 33rd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), Loretta A. Williams, Ph.D., RN, AOCN, OCN, an instructor in the Department of Symptom Research at M. D. Anderson, detailed commonalities of 21 patients who shared personal stories of dealing with cancer's most distressing and common symptom.

"While fatigue is a well-recognized symptom of cancer and its treatment, the measurement of fatigue has been based on many different ideas and definitions. Few of these definitions have included patient input. We're trying to define fatigue based on patient experience," said Williams. "Once we're able to determine the critical elements of fatigue, we'll be better equipped to ask the right questions of patients to assess fatigue. Healthcare professionals - including nurses - will be in a much better position to intervene with patients to manage or prevent fatigue."

The study included open-ended, audio-taped interviews with 21 patients, all who were receiving radiation therapy at M. D. Anderson. The patients were evenly divided with diagnoses of breast, prostate and head and neck cancer. Of the 21 patients who were interviewed during the fifth week of radiation therapy, 57 percent were women and the average patient was 54 years old.

In the study, patients reported a loss of strength or energy that included feelings of tiredness or weakness, which may progress to exhaustion, and lack of energy and stamina.

Because of the qualitative technique that Williams and her team used, their dialogues with patients revealed comments such as, "I don't have a bod
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Contact: Julie A. Penne
jpenne@mdanderson.org
281-460-1788
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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