NCCN Practice Guidelines for Cancer-Related Fatigue.
These guidelines propose a treatment algorithm in which patients are evaluated regularly for fatigue, using a brief screening instrument, and are treated as indicated by their fatigue level. The algorithm's goal is to identify and treat all patients with fatigue that causes distress or interferes with daily activities or functioning. Management of fatigue begins with primary oncology team members who perform the initial screening and either provide basic education and counseling or expand the initial screening to a more focused evaluation for moderate or higher levels of fatigue. At this point the patient is assessed for the five primary factors known to be associated with fatigue: pain, emotional distress, sleep disturbance, anemia, and hypothyroidism. If any of these conditions are present, it should be treated according to practice guidelines, and the patient's fatigue should be reevaluated regularly. If none of the primary factors is present or the fatigue is unresolved, a more comprehensive assessment is indicated--with referral to other care providers as appropriate. The comprehensive assessment should include a thorough review of systems, review of medications, assessment of comorbidities, nutritional/metabolic evaluation, and assessment of activity level. Management of fatigue is cause-specific when conditions known to cause fatigue can be identified and treated. When specific causes, such as infection, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, or cardiac dysfunction, cannot be identified and corrected, nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment of the fatigue should be considered. Nonpharmacologic interventions may include a moderate exercise program to improve functional capacity and activity tolerance, restorative therapies to decrease cognitive alterations and improve mood state, and nutritional and sleep interventions for patients with disturbances in eating or sleeping. Pharmacologic therapy may include drugs such as antidepressants for depression or erythropoietin for anemia. A few clinical reports of the use of corticosteroids and psychostimulants suggest the need for further research on these agents as a potential treatment modalities in managing fatigue. Basic to these interventions, the effective management of cancer-related fatigue involves an informed and supportive oncology care team that assesses patients' fatigue levels regularly and systematically and incorporates education and counseling regarding strategies for coping with fatigue (Johnson, 1999), as well as using institutional fatigue management experts for referral of patients with unresolved fatigue.