Proactive fatigue screening and management called for in blood cancer patients

A study showing fatigue is common and enduring in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) survivors has highlighted the need for more proactive screening and management in blood cancer patients, an Australian occupational therapist says.

The US study, which assessed fatigue’s prevalence and persistence in 555 NHL survivors, found it occurred in more than a quarter of patients at baseline and worsened in a third over time.

The disproportionate sense of physical, emotional and/or cognitive tiredness or exhaustion clung to 19% of patients at five years post-diagnosis and could affect around 30% at 10 to 15 years, the study read, noting that female patients and those with less education, past chemotherapy, increased co-morbidities and post-traumatic stress symptoms were most at risk.

The symptom is often associated with weakness and ‘brain fog’ and is “commonly cited” as having “the greatest impact on daily life”, occupational therapist and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre health services researcher, Dr Elizabeth Pearson wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Moderate fatigue can reduce stamina and “cause frustration due to being unable to do as much as expected”, while severe levels prevent patients from doing many tasks and have been “significantly associated with reduced employment, financial problems and increased health care utilisation among Hodgkin lymphoma survivors”.

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