Cancer related fatigue and self-care while undergoing chemotherapy: patients' perspectives

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O'Regan, Patricia
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University College Cork
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Background: Cancer related fatigue (CRF) is considered the most severe, debilitating and under-managed symptom of cancer. Patients receiving chemotherapy experience high levels of CRF which profoundly impacts on their lives. Aim: 1). To explore and measure CRF and determine the most effective self-care strategies used to combat CRF in a cohort of patients with a diagnosis of cancer (breast cancer, colorectal cancer, Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) 2). To explore self-care agency and its relationship to CRF. Method: A mixed methods study which incorporated a descriptive, comparative, correlational design and qualitative descriptions of patients’ (n=362) experiences gleaned through open ended questions and use of a diary. The study utilised The Revised Pipers Fatigue Scale, the Appraisal of Self-Care Agency and a researcher developed Fatigue Visual Analogue Scale, Fatigue Self-Care Survey, and Diary. Findings: Having breast cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; using the strategies of counselling, taking a 20–30 minute nap, resting and sleeping, self-monitoring and complementary therapies were all associated with increased odds of developing fatigue. Increased self-care agency; being in the divorced / separated cohort; being widowed; increased length of time since commencement of chemotherapy; engagement in exercise, and socializing were associated with a reduced risk of developing fatigue. Females had 20% higher fatigue levels than males (p=<.001). Receiving support was the strategy used most frequently and rated most effective. Fatigue was very problematic and distressing, four key qualitative categories emerged: the behavioural impact, affective impact, the sensory impact, and the cognitive impact. Keeping a diary was considered very beneficial and cathartic. Conclusions: Fatigue severely impacted on the daily lives of patients undergoing chemotherapy. There are a range of self-care strategies that patients should be encouraged to use e.g. exercise, socializing, and enhancement of psychological well-being. The enhancement of self-care agency and use of diaries should also be considered.
Chemotherapy , Cancer related fatigue , Self care , Patients' perspectives , Nursing care
O'Regan, P. 2014. Cancer related fatigue and self-care while undergoing chemotherapy: patients' perspectives. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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