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Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2014 May;31(3):341-4. doi: 10.1177/1049909113485280. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Aggravation of fatigue by steroid therapy in terminally ill patients with cancer.

Author information

1
1Hospice, Medical corporation Junkei-kai Sotoasahikawa Hospital, Akita, Japan.

Abstract

Steroids are commonly used for fatigue relief in terminally ill cancer patients. However, steroid-induced adverse effects including depression, myopathy, and hyperglycemia may contribute to fatigue. We report our experiences with aggravation of fatigue with steroid use in three cases. Case 1 was a 65-year-old man with advanced gastric cancer. He was started on betamethasone (2 mg/d) for fatigue, but the fatigue worsened due to steroid-induced depression. Discontinuation of steroids and initiation of an antidepressant ameliorated the fatigue. Case 2 was a 68-year-old man with advanced lung cancer. He complained of fatigue. Betamethasone (1 mg/d) was started and alleviated the fatigue. However, when the betamethasone dose was increased to 2 mg/d, the fatigue, with muscle weakness and myalgia, worsened due to steroid-induced myopathy. We therefore switched from betamethasone (2 mg/d) to prednisolone (10 mg /d). The fatigue resolved and the patient returned to his previous condition. Case 3 was a 73-year-old man with recurrent bile duct cancer. He also had diabetes mellitus. He developed fatigue, anorexia and fever. We started betamethasone (1.5 mg/d) for these symptoms, but the fatigue and anorexia worsened due to steroid-induced hyperglycemia. Blood glucose rose to 532 mg/dL. Therefore, insulin therapy was started, and the dose of betamethasone was reduced to 0.5 mg/d. His glucose level decreased to less than 320 mg/dL and he recovered from the fatigue while achieving moderate oral intake. In conclusion, the possibility of steroid-induced secondary fatigue in terminally ill cancer patients should be taken into consideration.

KEYWORDS:

adverse effect; depression; fatigue; hyperglycemia; myopathy; steroid

PMID:
23588576
DOI:
10.1177/1049909113485280
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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