Cancer Patients Fatigued Before Treatment Begins

Cancer patients are often very tired, a bone-weary fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest.  Fatigue is the most common complaint from patients during chemotherapy.  However, a recent study found that one in four patients are already severely fatigued before treatment ever begins.

Severe fatigue was most common in patients with gastrointestinal cancer, where almost one in three were fatigued at diagnosis.

Contributing to initial serious fatigue were:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Depression
  • Poor sleep and rest patterns during the day and night
  • Fatigue existing a year before diagnosis

Dr. M.M. Goedendorp and her colleagues at the Expert Centre for Chronic Fatigue in Nijmegan, The Netherlands, concluded,

Relatively large numbers of cancer patients already experience severe fatigue before initiation of treatment, varying between 14–28%. The factors that contributed to severe fatigue at this stage were physical activity, depressive mood, impaired sleep and rest, and fatigue 1 year before diagnosis.

SOURCE: Goedendorp et al.,British Journal of Cancer, published online October 21, 2008.


  1. D. Honeywell says

    Reading the article regarding fatigue before treatment begins for gastrointestinal patients, it brought back so many memories. In 2001, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I was 22 years old. So young that all of my doctors then and now are in awe. But before I was diagnosed, I was always so tired. Even though I slept for an acceptable amount of hours, my bones still ached when I awoke. It was only after being misdiagnosed with Lupus and being on steroid treatments that I had a colonoscopy. However, cancer was not the diagnosis they were looking for but an ulcer. Thankfully, I am cancer free. I survived chemotherapy during law school, every friday; six weeks on and two weeks off. Thanks to everyone researching for a cure, there are people like myself that are counting on you!

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