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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Differences in Sleep Disturbance and Fatigue between Patients with Breast and Prostate Cancer at the Initiation of Radiation Therapy

  • Author(s): Garrett, Kristin Robbins
  • Advisor(s): Miaskowski, Christine
  • et al.


Purpose of the research: The purposes of this study were to evaluate for differences in the occurrence rates of sleep disturbances and fatigue; to evaluate for differences in the severity of sleep disturbance using both subjective and objective measures; and to evaluate for differences in the severity of self-reported fatigue in patients with breast and prostate cancer at the initiation of RT.

Methods and Sample: Patients with breast (n=78) and prostate (n=82) were evaluated prior to the initiation of RT using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the General Sleep Disturbance Scale (GSDS), the Lee Fatigue Scale (LFS), the Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) and wrist actigraph. Differences in sleep disturbance and fatigue between groups were evaluated using independent sample t-tests and Chi-square analysis.

Key Results: Patients with breast cancer reported significantly higher levels of sleep disturbance (p=0.008) and fatigue (p=0.005) than patients with prostate cancer using subjective measurements. However, according to objective sleep measurements, men with prostate cancer had poorer sleep efficiency (p=0.024) than women with breast cancer. The occurrence rates for sleep disturbance (p<0.0001) and fatigue (p=0.03) were also significantly higher in the group of breast cancer patients when compared to the groups of prostate cancer patients.

Conclusions: Subjective measurements of sleep reveal that women with breast cancer appear to have greater levels of sleep disturbance and fatigue than men with breast cancer as well as higher occurrence rates of these symptoms. However, when assessing objective measurements of sleep disturbance, prostate cancer patients appear to have more severe sleep disturbance than breast cancer patients. All patients in this cohort experienced poor sleep quality and fatigue suggesting that oncology patients need to be assessed for these symptoms.

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