Patients’ views about causes and preferences for the management of cancer-related fatigue—a case for non-congruence with the physicians?



Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is frequently overlooked. Adherence to treatment guidelines may be related to the patient’s views about illness. This study aimed at exploring patients’ views about CRF and determining whether they are congruent with best practice treatments.


Data were collected in 160 consecutive patients hospitalized in a supportive care setting. Biological, clinical, and psychological variables were assessed using validated questionnaires. Patients were also asked to complete the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI) and a questionnaire investigating their main symptoms and views about CRF and its management.


Patients were mainly men (60%); median age was 66 years. Various cancer diagnoses were represented; 17.5% had primary local diseases, 40% local recurrences, and 42.5% metastatic diseases. The majority of the patients experienced moderate or severe CRF (76.3%) on the BFI. Fatigue was the most frequently reported symptom (87.5%). Only anxiety, depression, and dimensions of quality of life were significantly related with CRF. Two thirds of the patients associated CRF with cancer-related morbidities. As for the best treatments, patients first stressed control of adverse effects. Over half of the patients were reluctant to report fatigue, mainly because they considered fatigue as an unavoidable side effect, but also because they feared a change towards less active/aggressive treatments.


Patients mostly consider that CRF must be tolerated. Guidelines emphasize activity enhancement strategies as beneficial. The patients’ preferences for rest rather than activity may be related to their high level of fatigue, which leads them to disregard activity as a possible treatment.

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The authors are grateful to Mrs. Wendy Pickering-Di Silvestro for language editing.

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Correspondence to Christophe Luthy.

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Luthy, C., Cedraschi, C., Pugliesi, A. et al. Patients’ views about causes and preferences for the management of cancer-related fatigue—a case for non-congruence with the physicians?. Support Care Cancer 19, 363–370 (2011).

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  • Fatigue
  • Cancer-related fatigue
  • Supportive care
  • Patients’ views
  • Treatment preferences
  • Treatment guidelines