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According to a recent article published in the journal Cancer, a significant portion of survivors of breast cancer experience fatigue five to 10 years following treatment.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately 250,000 women annually in the U.S. alone. Fortunately, cure rates remain high for women whose cancer is detected and treated early. Because more women are surviving breast cancer, long-term quality of life following treatment has become an important issue.

Researchers from California recently conducted a clinical study to assess fatigue in women who were long-term survivors of breast cancer. This study included 763 women who had survived breast cancer. They completed questionnaires at 1-5 years after diagnosis and at 5-10 years following diagnosis.

A significant portion of women reported fatigue for extended periods following diagnosis.

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  • Approximately 34% of patients reported significant fatigue at 1-5 years following diagnosis.
  • Approximately 21% of patients reported significant fatigue at both 1-5 years and 5-10 years following diagnosis.
  • Fatigue was significantly associated with the presence of depression.
  • Women who were treated with both radiation and chemotherapy had increased incidence of fatigue compared to those treated with either treatment alone.

The researchers concluded that fatigue for extended periods following diagnoses occurs in a significant portion of breast cancer survivors and is an issue that needs to be addressed. The researchers suggested that treatment for depression may help alleviate fatigue in some of these women. Further study is needed to help reduce fatigue in this patient population.

Patients who are cancer survivors and are experiencing fatigue may wish to participate in a clinical trial evaluating ways in which to manage or reduce fatigue. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: Bower J, Ganz P, Desmond K, et al. Fatigue in Long-Term Breast Carcinoma Survivors. *Cancer.*2006;106:751 – 758.

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