Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Breast Cancer Patients - a Feasibility Study of an 8 Week Intervention for Tumor Associated Fatigue Treatment

  • Eichler, Christian (Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Holweide Hospital) ;
  • Pia, Multhaupt (Brustzentrum, Krankenhaus Holweide, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics) ;
  • Sibylle, Multhaupt (Brustzentrum, Krankenhaus Holweide, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics) ;
  • Sauerwald, Axel (Hospital Duren GmbH) ;
  • Friedrich, Wolff (Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Holweide Hospital) ;
  • Warm, Mathias (Brustzentrum, Krankenhaus Holweide, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics)
  • Published : 2015.03.04


Background: Tumor associated fatigue (TAF) or cancer related fatigue (CRF) is not a new concept. Nonetheless, no real headway has been made in the quantitative analysis of its successful treatment via cognitive behavioral therapy. Since 20 to 30% of all breast cancer patients suffer from anxiety and/or depression within the first year of their diagnosis, this issue needs to be addressed and a standard treatment protocol has to be developed. This study focused on developing a simple, reproducible and short (8 weeks) protocol for the cognitive behavioral therapy support of tumor associated fatigue patients. Materials and Methods: Between the year 2011 and 2012, 23 breast cancer patients fulfilled the diagnosis TAF requirements and were introduced into this study. Our method focused on a psycho-oncological support group using a predetermined, highly structured and reproducible, cognitive behavioral therapy treatment manual. Eight weekly, 90 minute sessions were conducted and patients were evaluated before and after this eight session block. Tumor fatigue specific questionnaires such as the multidimensional fatigue inventory (MFI) as well as the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS) were used in order to quantitatively evaluate patient TAF. Results: Of the 23 patients enrolled in the study, only 7 patients fulfilled the TAF diagnostic criteria after the psycho-oncological group treatment. This represents a 70% reduction in diagnosable tumor associated fatigue. The HADS analysis showed a 33% reduction in patient anxiety as well as a 57% reduction in patient depression levels. The MFI scores showed a significant reduction in 4 of the 5 evaluate categories. With the exception of the "mental fatigue" MFI category all results were statistically significant. Conclusions: This study showed that a highly structured, cognitive behavioral therapy group intervention will produce significant improvements in breast cancer patient tumor associated fatigue levels after only 8 weeks.


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