Women most affected by fatigue following treatment for breast cancer also suffer episodes of depression and body-image deterioration, neck and shoulder pain, and limited arm movement (possibly due to surgical intervention).

Researchers in Spain conducted a follow-up study of 59 women who had been treated for breast cancer, 6 months after they had clinically overcome the disease. After assessing psychological and physical condition as well as different aspects linked to the typical medical symptoms associated with cancer, such as tiredness, pain, limited movement, and depression, the investigators identified the factors most associated with fatigue. Use of a statistical procedure known as resampling rendered the data more reliable than they otherwise would be for the relatively small sample size.

Although previous studies have pointed to self-esteem and body-image–related disorders following the cancer process, this is the first time that sensory hypersensitivity, limited movement, and certain psychological conditions have been associated with fatigue following treatment, according to a statement describing this European Journal of Cancer Care study (2011;20[5]:632-639). In that statement, lead study author Manuel Arroyo from Spain’s University of Granada cautioned that if fatigue is not treated, it may continue for years and have a serious physical, emotional, social, and economic impact on the patient.