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Fatigue and Other Variables During Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Colon and Rectal Cancer

Ann M. Berger
Jean L. Grem
Constance Visovsky
Heather A. Marunda
Justin M. Yurkovich
ONF 2010, 37(6), E359-E369 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.E359-E369

Purpose/Objectives: To examine patterns of fatigue and other variables (sleep quality, sleep-wake variables, activity and rest, circadian rhythms, quality of life [QOL], blood counts, and demographic and medical variables) during colon and rectal cancer adjuvant chemotherapy, as well as feasibility of the study.

Design: Longitudinal, descriptive feasibility study.

Setting: Two oncology clinics in the midwestern region of the United States.

Sample: From April 2006-December 2008, 27% of screened subjects (n = 21) enrolled and 14 completed the study. Participants were middle aged, partnered, and employed and had postsecondary education.

Methods: Measurements completed during the first week of three two-week cycles (chemotherapy 1-3) and at six weeks (before chemotherapy 4) were the Piper Fatigue Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, wrist actigraphy, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Colon, blood counts, and demographic and medical data form. Analysis included descriptive statistics and repeated-measures analysis of variance.

Main Research Variables: Fatigue, sleep quality, sleep-wake variables, activity-rest, circadian activity rhythms, and QOL.

Findings: Fatigue was mild at baseline and rose to moderate levels during chemotherapy 1-3. Sleep quality was poor the months prior to chemotherapy 1 and chemotherapy 4. Actigraphy data revealed disturbed sleep, low daytime activity, and impaired circadian activity rhythms during the first week after chemotherapy 1-3. QOL ratings were similar to those in other cancer populations. Fatigue increased, and white blood cell counts decreased significantly over time.

Conclusions: During adjuvant chemotherapy, patients reported moderate fatigue and poor sleep quality; actigraphs confirmed problems with sleep maintenance as well as low daytime activity and disturbed circadian rhythms. Multiple barriers were encountered during the study.

Implications for Nursing: Clinicians should screen for fatigue and sleep-wake variables and use guidelines to select interventions.

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