Chronic fatigue after bone marrow transplant

Last Modified: November 24, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I work with bone marrow transplant patients who often complain about chronic fatigue even years after their transplant. Is there any research or articles written on this subject? These patients are in their 30's or 40's and the fatigue is very depressing to them.  


Lora Packel MS, PT, Coordinator of Cancer Therapy Services for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

There are no longitudinal studies regarding chronic fatigue in the bone marrow transplant population. There are short-term studies that do indicate fatigue as an issue that affects quality of life.

The present standard of care for fatigue management is a medical evaluation to rule out anemia and thyroid dysfunction. Once the medical causes for fatigue are addressed, the following may help diminish fatigue:

  • Nutritional assessment by a registered dietitian who specializes in cancer care
  • Aerobic program (walking, biking, swimming)
  • Assessment of sleep habits
  • Screening and treatment for depression and/or anxiety
  • Energy conservation and pacing

I would refer you to the NCCN Cancer-Related Fatigue guidelines for more information.