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Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life
Clinician's Corner
January 17, 2007

Palliative Management of Fatigue at the Close of Life: “It Feels Like My Body Is Just Worn Out”

Author Affiliations

Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life Section Editor: Margaret A. Winker, MD, Deputy Editor, JAMA.


Author Affiliations: Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

JAMA. 2007;297(3):295-304. doi:10.1001/jama.297.3.295

Fatigue is the most common chronic symptom associated with cancer and other chronic progressive diseases. The assessment and treatment of fatigue at or near the end of life can be complex. Some of the challenges include its subjective nature, with great variability in its source, how it is expressed, and how it is perceived, requiring treatment to be based on patient report of frequency and severity; its multidimensional character; and the limited understanding of its pathophysiology. Using the case of an 82-year-old retired nurse with fatigue that could be explained by a number of concurrent conditions, including anemia, weight loss, depression and isolation, dyspnea, deconditioning, and medications, the authors illustrate the clinical approach to assess and treat fatigue at the end of life.

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