The Experience of Cancer-Related Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Qualitative and Comparative Study

Journal: Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2007 May 31; [E-publication ahead of print]

Authors and affiliations: Bennett B, Goldstein D, Friedlander M, Hickie I, Lloyd A. Department of Medical Oncology, Prince of Wales Hospital (Bennett, Goldstein, Friedlander); Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney (Hickie); School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales (Lloyd) – Sydney, Australia.

PMID: 17544246

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common and disabling symptom complex reported by survivors. This study aimed to better understand the manifestations of CRF in women treated for breast cancer, and to compare them with those of women diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Women with CRF persisting 6 months after treatment for early stage breast cancer, and women with CFS participated in separate, audiotaped focus groups. Transcripts of the sessions were analyzed using the NUD*IST software, and interpreted using grounded theory. Twenty-eight women participated, 16 with CRF and 12 with CFS.

Analysis of transcripts from both groups revealed a similar core set of symptoms, featuring fatigue, neurocognitive difficulties, and mood disturbances. Women with CFS reported additional symptoms including musculoskeletal pain and influenza-like manifestations. Both groups suffered disabling behavioral consequences of the symptom complex.

Qualitatively, CRF appears closely related to CFS. These findings raise the emergent hypothesis of a conserved neurobehavioral symptom complex, which results from diverse triggering insults.

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