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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Cancer survivors reveal how 'overwhelming, lingering, unrelenting' tiredness holds them back

More study on cancer-related fatigue is needed – and doctors are hoping to talk to survivors about it.

Image: Cancer via Shutterstock

CANCER SURVIVORS IN Galway have revealed how an overwhelming fatigue can hold them back from resuming ‘normal life’.

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway has been running focus groups for recovered cancer patients to discuss their experiences.

Organiser, PhD student Teresa Corbett, said the two groups she has spoken to so far have described an “overwhelming fatigue” which can slow down a return to everyday life.

The survivors have attached phrases such as ‘unhealthy’, ‘unrelenting’ and ‘persistent’ to their tiredness.

They also outline how sleep – even long ones – do not rejuvenate the body or mind.

“There are no specific known causes for cancer-related fatigue and it can be lingering. It can last years,” Corbett told

“After getting the all-clear, many patients are ready to get back to everyday life but this is holding them back.

With an increasing focus on quality of life in survivorship, we believe that it is essential that people have the opportunity to discuss this often debilitating consequence of cancer.

Despite much anecdotal evidence from survivors, cancer-related fatigue is still relatively under-recognised and under-treated.

“It is a big thing for people to be able to put a name on it,” explains Corbett. “A lot of patients were not warned this would be such a huge thing. That it would have such an impact on their lives.

“Also, many of them told us that that their employers and their families expected they would be instantaneously better once they got the all-clear.”

Through her focus groups, Corbett is hoping to gather information which can go on to inform psychological therapies for cancer-related fatigue.

Right now, there is a huge gap in knowledge.

“We’re trying to find out what people think it’s from – the cancer, the treatment, the behaviours while being sick.”

The Galway student, who is working in conjunction with three doctors from the School of Psychology, Cancer Care West and Galway University Foundation, believes the focus groups can be helpful in themselves.

“It was useful for them to get the chance to talk about it – it is something they may not discuss with their families or their GPs. It was good for them to be able to meet people with similar experiences.”

The School of Psychology has extended the invite and would like to hear from adults who have completed their treatment for cancer at least six months ago. The group meetings are held in Galway with between four and six survivors. Refreshments are provided and the session lasts 90 minutes. 

For further information or to participate in the focus groups contact Teresa Corbett, at or 0860705826.

Read: 20-year-old West Ham player loses battle with cancer

More: Vaginas ‘grown’ in 7 days successfully transplanted in four women

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