Targeted Psychosocial Counseling Can Ease Cancer Fatigue

Counseling that focuses specifically on fatigue can reduce its symptoms and help cancer patients cope with it during cancer treatment.

The Cochrane Collaboration reviewed randomized clinical trials of psychological interventions aimed at managing cancer fatigue.  Studies included both interventions that included fatigue among other symptoms and those that were directly at fatigue alone.

In the 22 studies that included fatigue but didn’t focus on it, there was little impact.  However, four of five studies which were designed to treat fatigue specifically were effective in reducing it and maintaining that reduction.  Three counseling sessions of about an hour helped patients by:

  • educating patients about fatigue
  • teaching self-care and coping techniques
  • helping patients learn to balance periods of activity and rest

The Cochrane Collaboration summarized,

There is limited evidence that psychosocial interventions are effective in reducing fatigue during active treatment in cancer patients. Most promising are psychosocial interventions specifically designed to treat fatigue. In general, during these interventions patients were educated about fatigue, were taught in self-care or coping techniques, and learned to manage their activity. Interventions that did not focus on fatigue were rarely effective in reducing fatigue.

SOURCE: Goedendorp et al., Cochrane Reviews, published online January 21, 2009.

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