Reporter: Lauren Hertan
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: September 26, 2013
Presenter: Luluel Khan
Presenter Affiliation: University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
It is estimated that there are up to 170,000 patients who develop brain metastases each year, making it the most common tumor that occurs in the brain. The types of cancer most likely to cause brain metastases include lung, breast, kidney, colorectal and melanoma.
Patients with brain metastases can have a variety of symptoms including headaches, seizures, weakness and fatigue (tiredness), among others. One commonly used treatment is radiation therapy to the entire brain, appropriately called whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). Although WBRT can control brain metastases and the symptoms caused by them, it can cause side effects including fatigue. The current study collected quality of life and symptom data for 370 patients with a variety of questionnaires with a goal to determine how fatigue changes over time for survivors who have received WBRT.
The authors found a significant correlation between fatigue and quality of life following WBRT, with worse fatigue being correlated with worse quality of life. Additionally, they found that at 1 month following radiation, patients who were treated with dexamethasone (a steroid medication) were more likely to not have worsened fatigue scores. This study draws attention to an important symptom that should be addressed in patients who have brain metastases who undergo treatment with WBRT. Based on this study, survivors who suffer from fatigue after WBRT may have worse quality of life as a result. Treatments may be available for fatigue, and may range from things like increased exercise to medications taken by mouth. This study did not evaluate the role of various treatments in changing fatigue scores; however, survivors who suffer from fatigue after WBRT may benefit from discussing these options with their healthcare team.