Just under half (46 percent) of participants experienced sudden fatigue. Of those, 81 percent reported more than one episode per day, with 77 percent of episodes taking place during activities between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Ninety percent of patients described the intensity as severe.
Most episodes lasted an hour or less, but some lasted up to eight hours. Some patients had to sleep; others did not. Many reported concurrent symptoms including weakness, dizziness, pain, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.
"We learned that this is something that's really happening and most patients' lives are affected by it," Wu said.
Because the sudden onset of such episodes distinguishes them from what's normally thought of as CRF, she believes "sudden exhaustion syndrome" is a better description.
"Patients can suddenly become so exhausted they cannot move at all," Wu said. One participant experienced an onset while being surveyed, causing her eyelids to droop and rendering her unable to form words.
She said the study shows that patients undergoing treatment endure a lot, and she is interested in looking at which syndrome characteristics particular patients experience, along with degrees of intensity and concurrence.
Wu also would like to know why some patients feel compelled to sleep and others do not, and what symptom changes signal to each person that an episode is ending. She is especially curious about patients who seem to experience little or no CRF.
The condition may even continue for many cancer survivors even after they've finished treatment. Wu believes, however, that in the absence of empirical evidence of that continuation, further research is needed.
For now, Wu said oncology professionals need to recognize the syndrome and educate patients to enhance a sense of control and prevent harm.
"Cancer is not going away anytime soon," she said. "Mos
|Contact: Julie O'Connor|
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research