Predictors of the Trajectories of Self-Reported Attentional Fatigue in Women With Breast Cancer Undergoing Radiation Therapy

John D. Merriman

Catherine E. Jansen

Theresa Koetters

Claudia M. West

Marylin Dodd

Kathryn A. Lee

Steven M. Paul

Bradley E. Aouizerat

Bruce A. Cooper

Patrick S. Swift

William Wara

Christine Miaskowski

cognitive impairment, cancer-related fatigue, fatigue, radiation therapy
ONF 2010, 37(4), 423-432. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.423-432

Purpose/Objectives: To examine how attentional fatigue changed from the time of simulation to four months after the completion of radiation therapy and to investigate whether specific variables predicted initial levels and trajectories of attentional fatigue.

Design: Descriptive, longitudinal study.

Setting: Two radiation therapy departments.

Sample: 73 women with breast cancer who received primary or adjuvant radiation therapy.

Methods: Participants completed questionnaires prior to, during, and after radiation therapy. Descriptive statistics and hierarchical linear modeling were used for data analysis.

Main Research Variables: Attentional fatigue; demographic, clinical, and symptom characteristics.

Findings: Large amounts of interindividual variability were found in the trajectories of attentional fatigue. At baseline, higher levels of attentional fatigue were associated with younger age, not working, a higher number of comorbidities, and higher levels of trait anxiety. The trajectory of attentional fatigue improved over time for women with higher body mass index at baseline.

Conclusions: This study is the first to identify predictors of interindividual variability in attentional fatigue in women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy. The predictors should be considered in the design of future correlational and interventional studies.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses could use knowledge of the predictors to identify patients at risk for higher levels of attentional fatigue. In addition, nurses could use the information to educate patients about how attentional fatigue may change during and following radiation therapy for breast cancer.

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