PURPOSE: Clinical reports suggest that many breast cancer patients experience persistent fatigue as a long-term side effect of adjuvant chemotherapy treatment. To investigate this issue further, we examined the characteristics and correlates of fatigue in women who had completed adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer and in a comparison group of women with no history of cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Participants were 61 women with breast cancer who had completed chemotherapy an average of 471 days previously and 59 women with no history of cancer. All participants completed standardized self-report measures of fatigue, sleep quality, menopausal symptoms, and coping and were administered a structured clinical interview to identify current and past psychiatric disorder. RESULTS: Compared with women with no history of cancer, former adjuvant chemotherapy patients reported more severe fatigue (P < .01) and worse quality of life because of fatigue (P < .05). More severe fatigue among patients was significantly (P < .05) related to poorer sleep quality, more menopausal symptoms, greater use of catastrophizing as a coping strategy, and current presence of a psychiatric disorder. CONCLUSION: These findings support the view that many breast cancer patients experienced heightened fatigue after completion of adjuvant chemotherapy treatment. Results yield a profile of women who are at increased risk for heightened fatigue after chemotherapy and suggest ways to intervene clinically to prevent or reduce fatigue in this patient population.
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