Scientific breakthroughs of recent history have allowed a growing number of patients to survive cancer of various types. Along with an increased survival rate has come a greater concern for the quality of life of these survivors. Because of this, more cancer related conditions are becoming the focus of research in an effort to bring relief to those who have survived cancer, yet still ail from a condition that it has caused. In the forefront of the new research in the area of cancer related conditions is cancer-related fatigue (CRF) which is characterized by a continuous feeling of tiredness that is associated with cancer or the cancer treatment and can impede daily functioning (8,12,27). The field of research is still fairly new, but there are a few different methods currently being used to treat CRF. It was originally thought that getting plenty of rest would be the best treatment method for treating the tired state, but when that did not suffice, more interventions were explored.
Though the exact cause of CRF is not known, there are a few theories that are currently being tested. The first is that the lack of use of muscles leads to muscular catabolism which then increases the feelings of fatigue, one in turn worsening the other (11). Another thought is an overexpression of alpha-synuclein, the culprit in fatigue symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, may offer a hand in better understanding the mechanisms involved (23). Lastly, it is assumed that the beliefs of the mind may hold a great deal of responsibility in overcoming CRF. Though it is not the actual cause, it is believed that maladaptive thoughts and feelings may produce excess stress, which only exacerbates the symptoms of CRF.
The three main methods currently used to treat CRF are pharmacotherapy, psychological interventions, and exercise prescriptions (1,3,7,9,11,13,14,19,20,24,25,26,27,28). Although all three succeed in reducing the effects of CRF, researchers are proving that cognitive interventions are equally or more effective than either physical therapy or pharmacotherapy and generally considered less taxing and risky for the patient.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROBLEM
With the number of cancer survivors skyrocketing, cancer related conditions are only becoming more and more prevalent. In 2005, breast cancer survival alone had increase to 86% which translated to about 2 million women at the time (bower), and then number has only increased since then. This is only looking at one form of cancer, considering that anywhere from 57-95% of cancer survivors experience some level of fatigue, millions of people can be affected by an advancement in treating CRF. Another major factor is that it can cost patients thousands of extra dollars in order to pay for treatment that they do not need. If a patient is so fatigued that they continue to stay in the hospital or pay for services to accommodate them, the expenses can become insurmountable. However, if they find a treatment method that allows them to recover quicker, then they will not have to spend time and money suffering unnecessarily. At the very least, the general public needs to become informed about CRF as many of those who suffer from it, not even knowing. With this particular field of research still being fairly new, many sufferers of CRF do not seek help for their condition because they incorrectly believe that there is nothing that can be done for their feeling of fatigue. Without understanding their condition, they may begin down a road that never lets them fully recover. These patients have already survived cancer, so they should be able to live a full life. If they are never treated or are improperly treated, their quality of life will never improve.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Exercise Prescription When cancer-related fatigue sets in, the victim would most likely assume that resting was necessary in order to recover from their tired state. In turn, he or she may seek more sleep and