December 16, 2005

Fatigue fairly uncommon after breast cancer chemo

By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - About one in five women with
breast cancer experience fatigue after treatment with adjuvant
chemotherapy -- whether standard or high-dose -- according to a
report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Overall, these findings offer hope for breast cancer
survivors, suggesting that most patients will recover their
energy within one year after treatment onset and that the
incidence of posttreatment fatigue is relatively low," writes
Dr. Julienne E. Bower from University of California, Los
Angeles, California in a related editorial.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is chemotherapy that is given in
addition to surgery or other treatment. Adjuvant chemo delays
recurrence and improves long-term survival of women with breast
cancer, the long-term effects of such treatment on the
patient's well-being have not been thoroughly investigated.

Dr. Elisabeth G. E. de Vries from University Medical Center
Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues investigated the
effects of standard or high-dose chemotherapy on changes in
fatigue, hemoglobin, mental health, pain, and menopausal status
in 403 women who were disease-free after treatment for breast

More than 60 percent of the women did not report fatigue at
any of the four time points over 3-years' follow-up, the team
reports, and only 12 women (3 percent) reported fatigue at all
four points.

Twenty percent of the women reported fatigue once during
follow-up, the results indicate.

The mean hemoglobin level was slightly lower in women who
received high-dose chemotherapy, compared with women who
received standard-dose chemotherapy, but there was no
correlation between fatigue and hemoglobin level at any time

Mental health scores and muscle and joint pain did not
differ between the two treatment groups, the researchers note.
However, there were significant correlations between fatigue
and mental health scores and between fatigue and the presence
of joint pain and muscle pain, with mental health score being
the strongest predictor of fatigue at all four time points.

Identifying the causes of and contributors to
cancer-related fatigue should help facilitate the development
of targeted interventions.

SOURECE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, November 20, 2005.