Various measures of handgrip force may provide a supplemental objective measure for fatigue among patients with cancer, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a commonly observed adverse outcome secondary to cancer or cancer treatment, and has severe implications on patient physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning. CRF measures are, however, currently obtained primarily via questionnaires and are subjective in nature; more optimal, objective measures of CRF are needed. 

For this study, 14 women with advanced breast cancer who received chemotherapy within the past 3 months and 11 healthy women underwent a fatiguing handgrip exercise. Mechanical parameters such as maximal force, critical force, and force variability were measured. Fatigability was measured throughout 60 maximal repeated handgrip contractions. Quality of life and CRF was assessed at baseline using the EORTC QLQ-C30 and FA12 questionnaires, respectively. 

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Results of the study demonstrated that different measures of fatigue correlated with different dimensions of CRF. 

Maximal force and critical force were significantly correlated with physical fatigue (P=.029). Emotional fatigue was significantly associated with critical force, maximal force, and force variability (P=.008). Cognitive fatigue was significantly associated with critical force and force variability (P=.035). 

Measures of fatigue, and particularly critical force, may be a complementary measure of CRF in addition to patient reported outcomes. The authors concluded that the study “suggests a link between the subjective fatigue and the acute exercise fatigability that needs to be further investigated to better understand the possible mechanisms of the chronic fatigue’s development and persistence.”


Veni T, Boyas S, Beaune B, et al. Handgrip fatiguing exercise can provide objective assessment of cancer-related fatigue: a pilot study[published online June 24, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4320-0