BACKGROUND: Fatigue is a common symptom in cancer patients that can persist beyond the curative treatment phase. This systematic review evaluated the effectiveness of psychological interventions for cancer-related fatigue in post-treatment cancer survivors.
METHODS: We searched relevant online databases and sources of grey literature. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating psychological interventions in adult cancer patients after the completion of treatment, with fatigue as an outcome measure, were included. Two review authors extracted data independently from the selected studies and assessed the methodological quality using the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool.
RESULTS: Thirty-three psychological interventions were identified. The sample size of the included studies varied between 28 and 409, with 4525 participants overall. Twenty-three of the included studies reported a significant effect of the interventions on reducing fatigue in cancer survivors. Most interventions focused on psychoeducation, mindfulness, cognitive or behaviour therapy-oriented strategies. However, studies differed widely in terms of measurement tools used to assess fatigue, mode, duration and frequency of the intervention delivery.
CONCLUSIONS: This review showed some tentative support for psychological interventions for fatigue after cancer treatment. However, as the RCTs were heterogeneous in nature and the number of high-quality studies was limited, definitive conclusions are not yet possible. With the growing need for stage-specific research in cancer, this review sought to inform current practice and to summarise the existing evidence base of randomised controlled trials in the area.
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW REGISTRATION: PROSPERO registration number: CRD42014015219.