Comparison of symptom clusters associated with fatigue in older and younger survivors of colorectal cancer.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is one of the most frequently reported symptoms in cancer survivors. To be able to optimally treat CRF, knowledge of symptoms that interact with CRF is helpful. During aging, changes occur in body composition with progressive deterioration in physiological functions and metabolic processes causing a decline of adaptive capacity. Therefore, symptoms caused by cancer and its treatment might coexist in different symptom clusters in older cancer survivors, compared to younger survivors. The purpose of this analysis was to identify and compare symptom clusters that include CRF between older and younger survivors of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Data were drawn from a cross-sectional study from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. In total, 1698 stage I and II CRC survivors diagnosed from 2000 to 2009 completed questionnaires on fatigue and psychological distress. Survivors were categorized in two groups based on age (≤65 versus >65 years) Symptom clusters were assessed using principal component analysis. A sensitivity analysis was performed on the results with categorical principal component analysis. In both age groups, three components including two symptom clusters were identified: an emotional symptom cluster containing anxiety, fatigue, and depression; a pain symptom cluster containing pain and insomnia; and a third component containing dyspnea only.

Symptom clusters in survivors of CRC appear to be independent of age. In treating CRC survivors for fatigue, regardless of age, it is advisable to assess depression and anxiety and, if necessary, refer for further diagnosis and treatment.