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The cultural constructs of cancer-related fatigue among American Indian cancer survivors



Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common symptom experienced by cancer survivors. Persistent fatigue can last years after cancer treatment. CRF's origin is unknown, and there are no validated treatments. Cultural constructs (definitions, meaning, and explanations) may vary the presentation and treatment choices related to fatigue. Identifying and categorizing CRF terms and experiences among racial, ethnic, and non-English speaking groups may provide a fuller understanding of CRF to guide tailoring of interventions. We report on the cultural constructs of CRF as reported by American Indian cancer survivors.


A study of Southwest American Indians collected qualitative data on cancer survivors' experiences of fatigue. Focus groups (n = 132) at urban clinics and rural reservation sites in the Southwest collected qualitative data on cancer survivor experiences with fatigue. The sessions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. During analysis, common themes were coded and formed into categories following Grounded Theory analytical procedures. Relationships between categories were examined.


CRF was described by survivors as an entity that comes into the brain, "drains life" from the body, and creates long-lasting suffering, pain, and stigma. We review the cultural constructs of fatigue and CRF's relationship to "being out of balance."


There is a need for culturally appropriate education concerning fatigue, techniques for reducing fatigue, and support for American Indian cancer survivors and other vulnerable populations.

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