More Than One-quarter of Breast Cancer Survivors Experience Severe Fatigue

Approximately 1 in 4 survivors of breast cancer suffers from severe fatigue.
Approximately 1 in 4 survivors of breast cancer suffers from severe fatigue.

Approximately 1 in 4 survivors of breast cancer suffers from severe fatigue, a study published in the journal Annals of Oncology has shown.1

For this study, researchers in the Netherlands sought to estimate the prevalence of severe fatigue among breast cancer survivors, describe the course of severe fatigue following cancer treatment, and identify demographic, disease-related, and treatment-related risk factors associated with severe fatigue.

Researchers analyzed data from 12 327 breast cancer survivors who were participants in 27 studies.

Results showed that the pooled prevalence of severe fatigue was 26.9% (95% CI: 23.2-31.0), but the authors note that this figure should be interpreted with caution due to high heterogeneity.

In terms of the course of severe fatigue after breast cancer treatment, the study demonstrated a relatively large reduction in the prevalence of severe fatigue occurred during the first 6 months following treatment completion.

Researchers found that higher disease stages (RR, 1.18; 95% CI 1.08-1.28); receiving chemotherapy (RR, 1.12; 95% CI 1.06-1.19); and receiving the combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, both with (RR, 1.38; 95% CI: 1.15-1.66) and without hormone therapy (RR, 1.18; 95% CI: 1.05-133) were associated with increased risk for severe fatigue.

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In contrast, breast cancer survivors with a partner (RR, 0.96; 95% CI: 0.93-0.98), those who received only surgery (RR, 0.83; 95% CI: 0.70-0.98), and those who received surgery plus radiotherapy (RR, 0.87; 95% CI: 0.78-0.96) were less likely to experience severe fatigue.


1. Abrahams HJG, Gielissen MFM, Schmits IC, et al. Risk factors, prevalence, and course of severe fatigue after breast cancer treatment: a meta-analysis involving 12,327 breast cancer survivors [published online ahead of print March 2, 2016]. Ann Oncol. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdw099.

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