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20.05.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 10/2016 Open Access

Supportive Care in Cancer 10/2016

Patient and health care provider perceptions of cancer-related fatigue and pain

Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 10/2016
Loretta A. Williams, Chet Bohac, Sharon Hunter, David Cella
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00520-016-3275-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



In 1997, Vogelzang et al. reported that 61 % of patients with cancer indicated fatigue impacted daily life more than pain, and only 37 % of oncologists shared this perception. We provide an update to this study, which can help prioritize symptom assessment and management in the clinic. Study aims were to determine and compare perceptions of patients with cancer and health care providers (HCPs) of the impact of fatigue and pain.


A random sample of patients with cancer was recruited in the USA by Harris Poll Online and Schlesinger Associates. Oncology HCPs were recruited by Food and Drug Research, Inc. and Toluna, Inc.


From June to November 2012, 550 of 1122 eligible patients (49 %), 400 of 533 eligible oncologists (75 %), and 400 of 617 eligible oncology nurses (65 %) completed a survey. Of patients, 58 % reported that fatigue affected their daily lives more than pain while undergoing treatment with chemotherapy versus 29 % of oncologists and 25 % of oncology nurses that had this perception. Ninety-eight percent of patients reported experiencing fatigue, whereas 72 % of oncologists and 84 % of oncology nurses thought this was the case. Eighty-six percent of patients reported pain while undergoing treatment with chemotherapy, whereas 36 % of oncologists and 51 % of oncology nurses believed this occurred. Nausea and vomiting felt by HCPs were the most concerning symptoms for patients (88 %).


This study shows the importance of assessing symptoms by direct patient report during chemotherapy treatment. HCPs continue to underestimate the prevalence and importance of fatigue and pain for patients with cancer, a finding that may alter the management of treatment-related symptoms and may influence the development of patient symptom management plans.

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