Study Attempts to Better Define Fatigue

In an effort to better define and ultimately address fatigue more effectively, a qualitative study from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has identified three primary themes--loss of strength or energy, major effects of fatigue, and associated sensations--among patients being treated with standard radiation therapy.

Presenting on May 15 at the 33rd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), Loretta A. Williams, Ph.D., RN, AOCN, OCN, an instructor in the Department of Symptom Research at M. D. Anderson, detailed commonalities of 21 patients who shared personal stories of dealing with cancer's most distressing and common symptom.

"While fatigue is a well-recognized symptom of cancer and its treatment, the measurement of fatigue has been based on many different ideas and definitions. Few of these definitions have included patient input. We're trying to define fatigue based on patient experience," Williams said. "Once we're able to determine the critical elements of fatigue, we'll be better equipped to ask the right questions of patients to assess fatigue. Health care professionals--including nurses--will be in a much better position to intervene with patients to manage or prevent fatigue."

The study included open-ended, audio-taped interviews with 21 patients, all who were receiving radiation therapy at M. D. Anderson. The patients were evenly divided with diagnoses of breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer. Of the 21 patients who were interviewed during the fifth week of radiation therapy, 57 percent were women and the average patient was 54 years old.

In the study, patients reported a loss of strength or energy that included feelings of tiredness or weakness, which may progress to exhaustion, and lack of energy and stamina.

More than 85 percent of the patients in Williams' study used the terms, "tiredness" and "lack of energy" to describe fatigue. According to the researchers, these may be good terms for patients to use when speaking with health care providers about fatigue and terms that should alert the providers to patients experiencing it.

Williams and her team also pinpointed physical sensations associated with fatigue that included malaise, aching, feelings of heaviness or weight, slowness of movement, lack of appetite, and mental sensations of psychological distress, and difficulty thinking or concentrating.

Williams and her team are planning similar future studies to better define fatigue among patients receiving chemotherapy and new targeted therapies. They plan to develop a single definition of cancer-related fatigue.

Collaborating with Williams on the study were Shannon Burkett, Ph.D., Margaret H. White, B.A., Ibrahima Gning, Ph.D. and Charles Cleeland, Ph.D. The study was sponsored by a research grant from Cephalon Inc.

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - July August 2022

    July / August 2022

    Featuring:

    • CONFINED SPACES
      Specific PPE is Needed for Entry and Exit
    • HAZARD COMMUNICATION
      Three Quick Steps to Better HazCom Training
    • GAS DETECTION
      Building a Chemical Emergency Toolkit
    • RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
      The Last Line of Defense
    View This Issue