Ep. 178 – What is cancer-related fatigue?

Episode graphic: Ep. 178: What is cancer-related fatigue with Dr. Elise Cantu, PT.  TheOncoPT Podcast.  Headshot of Dr. Elise Cantu, PT.  Background image of brown-haired woman with white mug in hands, sitting behind silver microphone.

We return to the basics today. This series will explore cancer-related fatigue, including what it is, how it affects a person, and how it can be mitigated. Side effects are sometimes glossed over as buzzwords, and we tend to ignore that fact. As a result, we are actually harming our patients and underestimating the true ramifications and implications they can have on their independence and mobility. This can prevent them from doing the things they love.

Cancer related fatigue is probably the most common impairment cancer survivors experience. About 80% of survivors suffer from cancer-related fatigue. It differs from your typical fatigue.

There’s no comparison. As defined by the NCCN, The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, cancer-related fatigue is a distressing persistent subjective sense of physical, emotional, and cognitive tiredness or exhaustion related to cancer treatment that is not proportional to activity  and interferes with usual function.

I emphasize the importance of cancer related fatigue and why it’s so important that we pay attention to it and properly understand why it’s so important for our patients. CRF has a significant impact on patients. In an April 2022 study in Rehabilitation Oncology, women with persistent fatigue after breast cancer treatment found that it negatively affects their quality of life. Their study found that it affected their physical function, increasing their risk of falls and injuries.  This is affecting their safety and their longevity.

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