Fatigue and its associated psychosocial factors in cancer patients on active palliative treatment measured over time

Marlies E W J Peters, Martine M Goedendorp, Constans A H H V M Verhagen, Gijs Bleijenberg, Winette T A van der Graaf

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: Fatigue is a frequently reported symptom by patients with advanced cancer, but hardly any prospective information is available about fatigue while on treatment in the palliative setting. In a previous cross-sectional study, we found several factors contributing to fatigue in these patients. In this study, we investigated the course of fatigue over time and if psychosocial factors were associated with fatigue over time.

METHODS: Patients on cancer treatment for incurable solid tumors were observed over 6 months. Patients filled in the Checklist Individual Strength monthly to measure the course of fatigue. Baseline questionnaires were used to measure disease acceptance, anxiety, depressive mood, fatigue catastrophizing, sleeping problems, discrepancies in social support, and self-reported physical activity for their relation with fatigue over time.

RESULTS: At baseline 137 patients and after 6 months 89 patients participated. The mean duration of participation was 4.9 months. At most time points, fatigue scores were significantly higher in the group dropouts in comparison with the group participating 6 months (completers). Overall fatigue levels remained stable over time for the majority of participants. In the completers, 42% never experienced severe fatigue, 29% persisted being severely fatigued, and others had either an increasing or decreasing level. Of the investigated factors, low reported physical activity and non-acceptance of cancer were associated significantly to fatigue.

CONCLUSION: A substantial number of participants never experienced severe fatigue and fatigue levels remained stable over time. For those who do experience severe fatigue, non-acceptance of having incurable cancer and low self-reported physical activity may be fatigue-perpetuating factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-55
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatigue/etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms/psychology
  • Palliative Care/methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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