A descriptive study was conducted to explore the patterns, risk factors and experience of fatigue in Chinese cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Forty-two adult patients from an out-patient clinic of a university hospital in Hong Kong participated in the study. They were asked to complete a diary over a period of 2 weeks from the beginning of their chemotherapy cycle. The diary incorporated a 10cm horizontal visual analogue scale (VAS) for measuring fatigue intensity and a marked space next to the VAS for recording body temperature. Further, the Chinese version of the fatigue subscale of the Profile of Mood States was completed before the chemotherapy session, at the end of the first week post-treatment and at the end of the second week. Sociodemographic, physiological and disease/treatment-related information was obtained from the medical records. A semi-structured, open-ended interview was conducted with 18 of these patients. Most Chinese cancer patients (73.8%-90.5%) receiving chemotherapy in this study experienced fatigue.The peak level of fatigue was reported at day 3 post-treatment and it was more evident in the evenings. Female patients, patients with stage I cancer and those with nasopharyngeal carcinoma reported higher levels of fatigue (P < 0.05). No relationship was found between body weight and fatigue, and some association existed between febrile illness and fatigue (P < 0.001). Qualitative data affirmed the pattern of fatigue intensity and various descriptions about the experience and coping techniques of fatigue were found. Individualized and repeated assessment of patients with fatigue, as well as correcting the treatable factors that contribute to fatigue are suggested.
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