Patient perspectives on cancer-related fatigue revealed major deficits in education, screening, and treatment, according to findings from a patient questionnaire which were published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Investigators at the German Cancer Research Center surveyed 2508 patients 2 years after a cancer diagnosis between 2018 and 2019. The survey assessed their experience with and treatment for fatigue during their disease course.

The average age of respondents was 66.0±11.9 years. They reported an average maximal fatigue since diagnosis of 6.2±3.0 (on a scale of 0 to 10) and primary tumor locations across 17 tissues. Patients reported receiving, currently or in the past, chemotherapy (41.6%), radiotherapy (28.3%), targeted therapy (19.4%), endocrine therapy (16.6%), or surgery (82.0%).


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The majority of respondents (58%) felt uninformed about fatigue.

Among all study participants, there was a general lack of physician assessment for symptoms. Respondents indicated that no queries were made about their level of fatigue by their treating physician (41.0%), general practitioner (54.3%), nurse (73.1%), or psychosocial service provider (84.1%).

Only 13% of patients reporting severe fatigue (8 or higher on a scale of 0 to 10) had an in-depth assessment of their symptoms.

To address symptoms of fatigue, participants most commonly turned to exercise or physical activity (67.7%); however, 89.6% of respondents reported that this was self-initiated therapy.

A limitation of this study was the retrospective nature. The investigators predicted a 20% false negative rate due to lack of recall among survey respondents.

The study authors concluded that patients with cancer had a lack of education on fatigue and felt their oncology care team did not address or care for patient’s cancer-related fatigue.

Disclosure: An author declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.

Reference

Schmidt ME, Bergbold S, Hermann S, Steindorf K. Knowledge, perceptions, and management of cancer-related fatigue: the patients’ perspective. Support Care Cancer. Published online August 29, 2020. doi:10.1007/s00520-020-05686-5