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Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2011 Mar-Apr;57(2):211-9.

Cancer-related fatigue: a review.

[Article in English, Portuguese]

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University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA.


Cancer-related fatigue is the most prevalent cancer symptom, reported in 50%-90% of patients and severely impacts quality of life and functional capacity. The condition remains underreported and often goes untreated. Guidelines suggest screening for fatigue at the initial visit, when the diagnosis of advanced disease is made, and at each chemotherapy session, as well as the identification of treatable contributing factors such as anemia, hypothyroidism, depression and sleep disorders. Brief assessment tools such as the Brief Fatigue Inventory or the Visual Analog Scale may be appropriate in the initial scoring of fatigue severity, but the initial approach to treatment usually requires a more comprehensive assessment, education, and the determination of an individualized treatment plan. Patients with moderate or severe fatigue may benefit from both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, whereas mild fatigue that does not interfere with quality of life can be treated with non-pharmacological measures alone. Non-pharmacological measures that have shown to be promising include cognitive-behavioral interventions such as energy conservation and activity management (ECAM), exercise and perhaps sleep therapy. Many other modalities may be beneficial and can be used on an individual basis, but there is insufficient evidence to promote any single treatment. Pharmacological therapies that have shown to be promising include the psycho-stimulants methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate, modafinil (in severely fatigued patients only), and erythropoietin-stimulating agents in patients with chemotherapy-associated anemia and hemoglobin levels < 10 g/dL. Recently, our group reported impressive results with the use of the dry extract of Guarana (Paullinia cupana), with no significant side effects and at low cost, for the treatment of physical and mental cancer-related fatigue.

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