Patterns of Fatigue in Adolescents Receiving Chemotherapy

Jeanne M. Erickson

Susan Beck

Becky J. Christian

William N. Dudley

Patricia Hollen

Karen Albritton

Margaret M. Sennett

Robyn Dillon

Kamar Godder

adolescent, cancer-related fatigue, fatigue
ONF 2010, 37(4), 444-455. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.444-455

Purpose/Objectives: To describe patterns of fatigue in adolescents and the impact of fatigue during one month of chemotherapy, to explore variables that affect fatigue, and to explore the feasibility of collecting daily self-report data in this population.

Design: Longitudinal, descriptive.

Setting: Two pediatric oncology centers in central Virginia.

Sample: 20 adolescents with a variety of cancer diagnoses receiving chemotherapy.

Methods: Adolescents described daily fatigue for one month using rating scales and qualitative diaries.

Main Research Variables: Fatigue severity.

Findings: Adolescents commonly reported a peak in fatigue in the days immediately following chemotherapy administration. The most common pattern for adolescents who received chemotherapy on a schedule every three to four weeks was a "declining rollercoaster" pattern, with fatigue severity alternating on a daily basis but gradually declining until chemotherapy was scheduled again. Adolescents who received chemotherapy weekly showed more frequent peaks and troughs (the "yo-yo" pattern) that did not diminish in severity over the weeks of the study. Adolescents associated fatigue with other symptoms, particularly sleep-wake disturbances, pain, and nausea, and frequently reported that fatigue interfered with daily activities.

Conclusions: Fatigue commonly bothers adolescents receiving chemotherapy, particularly in the days following chemotherapy administration and when other symptoms are present. Although fatigue interfered with the adolescents' abilities to maintain their usual lifestyles, many still participated in the typical activities of adolescence.

Implications for Nursing: Fatigue is a complex and dynamic symptom. Oncology clinicians and researchers should frequently assess fatigue in adolescents receiving chemotherapy and apply timely and tailored interventions to match the factors that contribute to fatigue and influence fatigue severity. Management of fatigue during treatment will help adolescents stay involved in age-related activities and meet developmental milestones.

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