More than 85 percent of the patients in Williams' study used the terms, "tiredness" and "lack of energy" to describe fatigue. According to the researchers, these may be good terms for patients to use when speaking with health care providers about fatigue and terms that should alert the providers to patients experiencing it.
The team also reported that the effects of fatigue included a lack of motivation or inability to perform usual activities, decreased interest in social activities, and an overwhelming need to rest at times.
"Among the patients that we talked to, they often expressed an inability to do things that they could easily do before their treatment or before their diagnosis," said Williams. "They frequently reported that they didn't want to be around others, that it took too much out of them to keep up a conversation or be cordial."
Williams and her team also pinpointed physical sensations associated with fatigue that included, "malaise, aching, feelings of heaviness or weight, slowness of movement, lack of appetite, and mental sensations of psychological distress and difficulty thinking or concentrating."
One patient described the physical sensations as "a feeling of heaviness," while another said, "I just felt myself dragged out, just tired, and it was distressing to me because that's not my norm. I don't like to feel like that."
"Defining the patient's experience with a symptom is critical to assessing and managing that symptom," said Williams who was a clinical nurse specialist before joining M. D. Anderson's Department of Symptom Management as a nurse-scientist. "Assessing and managing symptoms, certainly fatigue, is a primary role of oncology nurses."
Williams and her team are planning similar future studies to better define fatigue among
|Contact: Julie A. Penne|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center