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WSU researcher: Cancer doctors need to recognize patients' exhaustion

March 14, 2013

A Wayne State University researcher said cancer doctors need to recognize the "sudden exhaustion syndrome" of patients undergoing cancer treatments and help them deal with it. Horng-Shiuann Wu, assistant professor of nursing in the College of Nursing, is researching why some patients suffer from the exhaustion more than others. This type of exhaustion "goes far beyond just being tired," said Wu, of Troy. "It's more draining, more intense, lasts longer than typical fatigue and is often unexpected. "Patients can suddenly become so exhausted they cannot move at all," Wu said. One participant experienced an onset while being surveyed, causing her eyelids to droop and rendering her unable to form words. For now, Wu said oncology professionals need to recognize the syndrome and educate patients to enhance a sense of control and prevent harm. "Cancer is not going away anytime soon," she said. "...we can manage a symptom, even if we can't cure the illness yet." Wu's study, "Definition, Prevalence and Characteristics of Sudden Exhaustion: A Possible Syndrome of Fatigue in Cancer," was recently published in the journal Support Care Cancer.