Fatigue is a highly prevalent and distressing symptom of cancer and its treatment. However, cancer patients often fail to communicate with their oncologists about fatigue. In this study, we attempted to identify the patient-related barriers to communication about fatigue, as cited by patients. Two hundred patients were sampled across the Community Cancer Care, Inc. (CCC) network of Indiana using the Cancer Behavior Inventory-Brief scale (CBI-B), the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (ZSDS), the Functional Assessment of Cancer Inventory-Fatigue scale (FACT-F), and the Fatigue Management Barriers Questionnaire (FMBQ), a questionnaire devised by experts in the field of cancer-related fatigue. There were no significant correlations between the instrument scores and demographic variables. Scores on the instruments did not differ significantly based on whether the patient was from a rural or urban site. One hundred thirty-two patients (66%) reported that they had never spoken to their doctor about fatigue. The most frequently reported reasons for this lack of patient communication about fatigue included the doctor's failure to offer interventions (47%), patients' lack of awareness of effective treatments for fatigue (43%), a desire on the patient's part to treat fatigue without medications (40%), and not wanting to complain to the doctor (28%). Patients reported that medical staff offered a mean of 11.63 recommendations for dealing with fatigue. The FMBQ was found to correlate significantly with self-efficacy (CBI-B, r = -0.20, P < 0.01) and correlate weakly with the number of recommendations made (r = -0.15, P < 0.05). The FMBQ was noted to have acceptable internal consistency (α = 0.88) and validity and may prove to be a useful instrument for understanding why patients do not communicate about fatigue. Multiple barriers contribute to why cancer patients do not comment about fatigue but may be overcome if physicians screen and assess for this symptom.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine