Fatigue, Psychological Distress, Coping Resources, and Functional Status During Radiotherapy for Uterine Cancer

Karin Ahlberg

Tor Ekman

Fannie Gaston-Johansson

ONF 2005, 32(3), 633-640. DOI: 10.1188/05.ONF.633-640

Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate how patients diagnosed with uterine cancer experience fatigue, psychological distress, coping resources, and functional status before, during, and after treatment with radiation therapy and to study whether significant correlations exist among these variables.

Design: Longitudinal, descriptive, and correlational.

Setting: The Department of Oncology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Sample: 60 women diagnosed with uterine cancer who were receiving curative external radiation therapy. Typical participants were 64 years old, married, and on sick leave or retired from work.

Methods: Data were collected through self-report instruments. Demographic and clinical data were extracted from the patients' records.

Main Research Variables: Cancer-related fatigue, psychological distress, coping resources, and functional status.

Findings: Patients' fatigue scores increased significantly during and after completion of radiotherapy. The participants reported normal levels of anxiety and depression, and their coping resources changed over time. After completing therapy, all dimensions of function had decreased; for social function, the decrease was significant. The correlation over time was significant among fatigue and physical function, role function, and cognitive function. The variation of the change in fatigue after therapy was completed was explained only by the level of fatigue experienced at baseline.

Conclusions:Fatigue is a symptom that increases in connection with radiotherapy. Functional status is influenced by the variation in fatigue levels. Fatigue level before treatment may be an important variable when trying to find a risk factor for the development of fatigue over the course of treatment.

Implications for Nursing:Nurses must inform patients receiving radiotherapy about the expected changes in fatigue and functional status. Pretreatment screening for fatigue is needed to identify patients at risk for developing fatigue.

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