Cancer-Related Fatigue: Meta-Analysis Identifies Effective Treatments

April 6, 2017
Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, FAAN

A recent meta-analysis found that the most effective treatments for cancer-related fatigue are exercise and psychological interventions.

People undergoing cancer treatment frequently report fatigue, which can range from somewhat bothersome to debilitating. Although the body of research on treatments for fatigue is growing, most studies are single institution studies evaluating 1 type of treatment.

Researchers from six healthcare institutions around the United States performed a meta-analysis of research on cancer-related fatigue (CRF). They compared the mean weighted effect sizes of the four most commonly recommended treatments for CRF (exercise, psychological, combined exercise and psychological, and pharmaceutical) and identified independent variables associated with treatment effectiveness.

Among 17,033 references, 113 unique studies with over 11,000 participants had sufficient data to be included in the meta-analysis. Exercise, psychological interventions, and exercise plus psychological interventions improve CRF during and after primary cancer treatment; however, pharmacologic interventions did not show improvement in CRF. Results also suggest that CRF treatment effectiveness was associated with cancer stage, baseline treatment status, treatment delivery mode, and fatigue measures.

The researchers concluded that exercise and psychological interventions are effective for reducing CRF during and after cancer treatment, and they are significantly better than the available pharmaceutical options. They recommend exercise or psychological interventions as first-line treatments for CRF. The study findings are available here.