BACKGROUND: Cancer-related fatigue is a debilitating late effect after treatment for childhood cancer. The prevalence of fatigue in childhood cancer survivors (CCSs) and associated factors for fatigue has varied widely in previous studies. Two important aspects of cancer-related fatigue, its severity and chronicity, are often not assessed. This study investigated the prevalence of, and risk factors for, severe chronic fatigue (CF) in a national cohort of Dutch CCSs.
METHODS: In this study, 2810 CCSs (5-year survivors of all childhood malignancies diagnosed between 1963 and 2001 with a current age of 12-65 years) and 1040 sibling controls were included. CF was assessed with the Short Fatigue Questionnaire and was defined as a score ≥ 18 and persistence of fatigue for ≥6 months. Cancer- and treatment-related characteristics, current health problems, and demographic and lifestyle variables were assessed as potential risk factors for CF via multivariable logistic regression analyses.
RESULTS: In adult CCSs and sibling controls (≥18 years old), the prevalence of CF was 26.1% and 14.1%, respectively (P < .001). In adolescent CCSs and sibling controls (<18 years old), the prevalence of CF was 10.9% and 3.2%, respectively. Female gender (odds ratio [OR], 2.13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.73-2.62), unemployment (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.67-2.85), having 1 or more health problems (OR for 1-2, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.18-1.87; OR for >2, 2.20; 95% CI, 1.50-3.21), and a central nervous system diagnosis (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.17-2.60) were significantly associated with CF in adult CCSs.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that CCSs, regardless of their cancer diagnosis, report CF more often than sibling controls. This study provides new evidence for the prevalence of fatigue in CCSs.