Fatigue and Its Risk Factors in Cancer Patients Who Seek Emergency Care

Carmen P. Escalante, Ellen F. Manzullo, Tony P. Lam, Joe E. Ensor, Rosalie U. Valdres, Xin Shelley Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Cancer patients visiting the emergency center (EC) are seldom assessed or treated for severe fatigue, a common symptom in sick patients due to acute medical conditions arising from cancer and cancer treatment. We provide a profile of cancer-related fatigue within the EC setting. Using a single-item screening tool derived from the Brief Fatigue Inventory, 928 patients (636 with solid tumors, 292 with hematological malignancies) triaged in the EC of a tertiary cancer center rated their fatigue at its worst in the last 24 hours. Patient demographic and clinical factors were retrospectively reviewed from medical records. The chief complaints of patients seeking emergency care included fever, pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, dyspnea, fatigue, and bleeding. More than half (54%) reported severe fatigue (seven or higher on a 0-10 scale) upon EC admission. Moderate to severe pain was highly associated with fatigue severity. Patients with severe fatigue were more likely to be unstable and unable to go home after EC care. In multivariate logistic regression analysis for severe fatigue, the significant risk factors for patients with solid tumors included dizziness (odds ratio [OR] = 3.59), severe pain (OR = 1.98), poor performance status (OR = 1.81), and being female (OR = 1.56). Dyspnea was significantly associated with severe fatigue in patients with hematological malignancies (OR = 4.74). Although fatigue was not the major reason for an ER visit, single-item fatigue-severity screening demonstrated highly prevalent severe fatigue in sicker EC cancer patients and in those patients who also suffered from other symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-366
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Cancer-related fatigue
  • emergency care
  • risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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