Aims and objectives: This study explored the fatigue experiences in older Taiwanese women with breast cancer. Background: Cancer is a common disease for older people, and breast cancer ranks second in occurrence among all cancers. Fatigue is the most frequently seen symptom, with more than 90% of cancer patients having such experiences. Fatigue may lead to functional dependence, affecting the care and quality of life for this older population. Design: A qualitative design was used in this study. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with participants being treated at the oncology outpatient department in a teaching hospital in northern Taiwan. Data were collected from November 2006-March 2007. Results: The study included 15 women, aged 65-82, with breast cancer. Analysis of the interviews revealed three themes: factors related to fatigue, interpretation of fatigue and ways to deal with fatigue. The factors related to fatigue arose from treatment, symptom distress and the impact of their emotions. Participants interpreted the fatigue as an inevitable normal reaction, and they were embarrassed to share its occurrence with others. Although fatigue made participants suffer, they found the ways to decrease the feeling of fatigue using psychological adjustments, practical changes and support systems. Conclusions: Facing the multilayered influences from treatments and ageing, older women with breast cancer considered fatigue as a physical and psychological expression. By raising the awareness of fatigue, nurses can help this older population manage or relieve fatigue by controlling symptoms, providing emotional support and making related resources available. Relevance to clinical practice: The results of this study can enhance the sensitivity and evaluation abilities of nurses in dealing with the cancer-related fatigue in older women with breast cancer.
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