OBJECTIVE: Psycho-oncological institutions offer specialized care for cancer patients. Little is known how this care might impact fatigue. This study aimed to identify fatigue trajectories during psychological care, examined factors distinguishing these trajectories and predicted fatigue severity after nine months of psychological care.
DESIGN: Naturalistic, longitudinal study of 238 cancer patients receiving psycho-oncological care in the Netherlands. Data were collected before initiation of psychological care (T1) and three (T2) and nine months (T3) afterwards. Latent class growth analysis, repeated measure analyses (RMA) and linear regression analysis were performed.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Fatigue severity: Checklist Individual Strength.
RESULTS: Three fatigue trajectories were identified: high- (30%), moderate- (62%) and low-level fatigue (8%). While statistically significant decreases in fatigue were found, this decrease was not clinically relevant. RMA showed main effects for time for fatigue trajectories on depression, anxiety, personal control and illness cognitions. Fatigue severity and physical symptoms at T1, but not demographic or clinical factors, were predictive of fatigue severity at T3.
CONCLUSIONS: Fatigue is very common during psycho-oncological care, and notably not clinically improving. As symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety and physical symptoms often cluster, supplementary fatigue treatment should be considered when it is decided to treat other symptoms first.