Purpose: Although fatigue is a known side effect in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) receiving radiation therapy, knowledge regarding long-term fatigue and dose-response relationships to organs at risk is scarce. The aim of this prospective study was to analyze patient-reported fatigue in patients with HNC receiving radiation therapy and to explore any possible association with organ-at-risk doses. Methods and Materials: Patients with HNC referred for curative radiation therapy were eligible for inclusion in the study. To assess patient-reported fatigue, quality of life questionnaires (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer QLQ-C30 and QLQ-FA12) were distributed before treatment and 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, and 60 months after the start of treatment. Mean dose (Dmean) and near maximum dose (D2%) of the cerebellum and brain stem were evaluated in relation to baseline-adjusted fatigue scores at 3 months. Results: One hundred twenty-six patients treated with intensity modulated radiation therapy between 2008 and 2010 were available for final analysis. Female sex and age <60 years were associated with higher fatigue at baseline, whereas patients also treated with chemotherapy had reduced physical and emotional fatigue at 6 months. Physical fatigue (QLQ-FA12 scale) increased from baseline up to 3 months (29 vs 59; P < .0001) but showed no difference compared with baseline from 1 to 5 years. Emotional fatigue was significantly lower at 5 years compared with baseline (14 vs 28; P < .0001). Patients with cerebellum Dmean > 3.5 Gy had higher mean physical fatigue scores at 3 months (38 vs 27; P = .036). Conclusions: Although there is a significant increase in fatigue scores for patients with HNC up to 1 year after radiation therapy, this study showed a return to baseline levels at 5 years. A possible association was found between physical fatigue and a higher mean dose to the cerebellum.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging