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review Annals of Oncology 20: 17–25, 2009

doi:10.1093/annonc/mdn537
Published online 4 August 2008

A systematic review of the scales used


for the measurement of cancer-related
fatigue (CRF)
O. Minton* & P. Stone
Division of Mental Health, St George’s University of London, London, UK

Received 9 April 2008; revised 16 May 2008; revised 27 June 2008; accepted 30 June 2008

Background: Fatigue in cancer is very common and can be experienced at all stages of disease and in survivors.
There is no accepted definition of cancer-related fatigue (CRF) and no agreement on how it should be measured. A

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number of scales have been developed to quantify the phenomenon of CRF. These vary in the quality of psychometric
properties, ease of administration, dimensions of CRF covered and extent of use in studies of cancer patients. This
review seeks to identify the available tools for measuring CRF and to make recommendations for ongoing research

review
into CRF.
Methods: A systematic review methodology was used to identify scales that have been validated to measure CRF.
The inclusion criteria required the scale to have been validated for use in cancer patients and/or widely used in this
population. Scales also had to meet a minimum quality score for inclusion.
Results: The reviewers identified 14 scales that met the inclusion criteria. The most commonly used scales and best
validated were the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Fatigue (FACT F), the European Organisation for
Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ C30) (fatigue subscale) and the Fatigue
Questionnaire (FQ).
Conclusions: Unidimensional scales are the easiest to administer and have been most widely used. The authors
recommend the use of the EORTC QLQ C30 fatigue subscale or the FACT F. The FQ gives a multidimensional
assessment and has also been widely used. A substantial minority of the scales identified have not been used
extensively or sufficiently validated in cancer patients and cannot be recommended for routine use without further
validation.
Key words: cancer-related fatigue, measurement scales, systematic review

introduction because a strict application of the criteria requires the use of


a semistructured psychiatric interview to ensure that
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a subjective symptom symptoms of CRF are not related to underlying psychiatric
experienced by patients at all stages of disease. It can occur co-morbidity.
during treatment [1], in advanced disease [2] and in disease- The European Association of Palliative Care has
free survivors [3]. However, the prevalence of fatigue can vary developed a working definition [6] of CRF on the basis
widely depending on which measurement tool is used [4]. This of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of
is in part a reflection of the lack of an agreed definition of CRF.
Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ C30).
Diagnostic criteria for a syndrome of CRF have been proposed
This defines fatigue as a subjective feeling of tiredness,
for inclusion in the International Classification for Diseases
weakness or lack of energy. This is a pragmatic approach
(ICD 10) (Cella ref). These criteria can be applied using a short
which provides a working understanding of CRF for
semistructured interview [5]. The widespread adoption of
clinicians. However, other organisations and authorities have
a syndrome approach using agreed diagnostic criteria would
defined CRF in their own ways, e.g. the National
help with the interpretation of prevalence figures in different
Comprehensive Cancer Network [7], and there is no universally
populations and across different studies. However, the
accepted definition.
syndrome approach has not yet been widely used, probably
The lack of consensus in this area has led to the development
of a number of scales to measure CRF. These scales have usually
*Correspondence to: Dr O. Minton, Division of Mental Health, 6th Floor Hunter Wing,
St Georges University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 ORE, UK. been validated originally in cancer patients. Other investigators
Tel: +44 02087252620; Fax: +44 02087255358; E-mail: ominton@sgul.ac.uk have used scales that were originally validated in non-cancer

ª The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org
review Annals of Oncology

populations and have then independently validated their use in Table 1. Explanation of psychometric properties of an ideal scale (on the
patients with cancer. These scales can differ widely in the basis of Norman & Streiner [6, 7])
number of items that they contain, the dimensions of CRF that
they cover (e.g. physical, affective and cognitive) and their Psychometric evaluation
psychometric properties. Internal consistency Do items within the scale correlate
In the light of this multiplicity of different assessment with each other and with the total score?
methods, we undertook a review to identify which scales have This is usually measured by Cronbach’s
been best validated and to make recommendations about which alpha. A low value indicates a poor
instruments should be used in research and/or in routine consistency of items; a very high score
clinical practice. indicates item redundancy.
Test–retest reliability Does the scale provide a similar score
when administered to the same population
in the same setting at different times?
methods Discriminant validity Does the scale distinguish between groups
A systematic methodology was used. The following terms were used expected to have differing levels of
to search Medline, CINAHL and Psychinfo (1950—week 1 fatigue, e.g. cancer patients and a
February 2008): control population.
Responsiveness to change Does the scale measure change during the
1 exp ‘‘Outcome Assessment (Health Care)’’/ course of an intervention that alters the

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2 exp Psychometrics/ level of fatigue, e.g. during chemotherapy.
3 exp ‘‘Outcome and Process Assessment (Health Care)’’/ Convergent validity Does the scale provide a similar measure
4 (fatigue adj (scale or inventory or instrument or measurement or to previously validated fatigue tools? This
assessment)).mp. [mp = title, original title, abstract, name of is usually measured by the degree of
substance word, subject heading word] correlation of the scores. The value
5 (fatigue adj2 (scale or inventory or instrument or measurement or usually given is Pearson’s r correlation.
assessment)).mp.
6 (fatigue adj3 (scale or inventory or instrument or measurement or
assessment)).mp.
7 (fatigue adj4 (scale or inventory or instrument or measurement or
assessment)).mp. internal consistency, test–retest reliability, known group validity
8 exp Questionnaires/ (discriminant validity), responsiveness to change or convergent
9 or/1-8 validity (against other scales).
10 exp Fatigue/ 5) Scales must be in English or translated and validated for English
11 fatigue (ti,ab,kw) language use.
12 ((lack$ or loss or lost) adj2 (energy or vigour or vigor)).mp.
There were also explicit exclusion criteria:
13 (tired$ or weary or weariness or exhaustion or exhausted or
lacklustre or astheni$).mp. 1) Objective rating scales testing power/strength, etc. as opposed to
14 (apathy or apathetic or lassitude or letharg$ or (feeling adj3 (drained subjective fatigue.
or sleepy or sluggish or weak4))).mp. 2) Single-item scales, including visual analogue scale (VAS)
15 or/10-14 3) Fatigue subscales as part of a broader quality-of-life measure. Unless
16 9 and 15 specific data were available relating to the psychometric properties of
the subscale.
The titles and abstracts of the papers identified using this search strategy In addition, the original reference was cross-referenced for citating articles
were screened by one of the authors (O.M.) and where necessary the via Medline and Web of Knowledge. This was carried out to quantify the
full text articles were retrieved. The reference lists of included articles number of times the scales had been used and the type of populations
were also examined. O.M. was responsible for the search strategy and studied. This procedure allowed us to approximately quantify the number
retrieving studies. An ad hoc quality score was created before searching to of participants who had been tested with each scale. For ease of reference,
ensure that included scales reached a minimum level of psychometric populations of cancer patients were divided into three groups:
properties on the basis of the ideal characteristics of measurement scales
1) Active—on treatment with curative intent.
described in detail by Norman and Streiner [6, 8]. These characteristics
2) Palliative—on treatment with palliative intent or supportive care only.
are detailed in Table 1. The final list of included studies was agreed by
3) Disease free—medium to long-term survivors.
both authors.
Scales were included only if they met the following a priori criteria: This methodology allowed us to make firmer recommendations for
ongoing research into CRF by being able to compare different levels of scale
usage as well as the scales’ psychometric properties.
1) Self-assessment scales originally validated in cancer patients and/or
subsequently widely used in cancer populations (n > 50 patients).
2) Scales must have been used in a second test population for independent
results
validation of their use in cancer patients.
3) 90% of participants must be >18 years. The search strategy identified 7889 abstracts in total.
4) Scales obtained a minimum quality score. The paper describing the scale These were screened and 116 studies were identified where
must have contained information on at least three of the following: the main focus of the paper was on fatigue measurement. This

18 | Minton & Stone Volume 20 | No. 1 | January 2009


Annals of Oncology review
unidimensional and multidimensional for ease of presentation.
7889 studies
screened on title The unidimensional scales invariably cover the physical aspects
and abstract of fatigue only. The multidimensional scales cover anywhere
between two and five different aspects of fatigue. This
division is possibly artificial as CRF has been shown in
a recent study to be a unidimensional construct, even after
116 papers identified as measuring all relevant dimensions of fatigue [19]. However,
primarily measuring fatigue
this method of categorising measurement scales is still
widely used and has been adopted in this review in order to
structure the presentation and discussion of the different
22 separate scales for instruments.
fatigue measurement
identified
unidimensional scales
We found five scales that reached our minimum quality
standard. Full details of their psychometric properties and areas
of use are detailed in Table 2.
14 scales included The Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI) [23] is a nine-item VAS
8 excluded on quality

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that was validated for use in a mixed cancer population. It has
criteria
reasonable psychometric properties but has had limited
ongoing use. The scale has cut-off scores to differentiate
between mild, medium and severe fatigue but these have not
been validated and are likely to be of use for screening purposes
5 unidimensional 9 multidimensional only.
scales scales The EORTC QLQ C30 [24] is a 30-item quality-of-life
questionnaire. The full tool has been used extensively as
a quality-of-life instrument. The three-item fatigue subscale has
Figure 1. Flow chart of study identification and selection.
been independently validated as a separate fatigue measure.
While the psychometric properties are weaker than more
extensive scales, their brevity and ease of administration may
shortlist generated data on 22 different scales that have outweigh this disadvantage. There have also been two large-
been used in the assessment of CRF (see Figure 1). Eight of scale studies (>2000 patients in each) independently assessing
these scales did not meet our minimum quality requirements. its use [20, 21], so there are extensive data in a variety of
The specific reasons for excluding these instruments are settings. However, it has been noted to have a ceiling effect in
itemised below. advanced cancer patients [20] and is not recommended as
The Fatigue Symptom Control Checklist [9]: Although used a single measure in this group.
in some studies of CRF (e.g. by Morrow et al. [10]), this scale Another advantage of this measure is that it is possible to
has neither been validated in English nor been specifically extract fatigue data from studies that have used the full
validated for use in cancer patients. quality-of-life scale. This includes the large number of
The Swedish Occupational Fatigue Inventory [11]: This scale studies that have used this scale in cancer chemotherapy
has been used in one study of patients undergoing radiotherapy trials (note: these studies have not been included in the current
[12] but was found to have limitations and has not been further analysis).
evaluated. The Fatigue Severity Scale [25] is a nine-item scale that was
The original Piper Fatigue Scale (PFS) [13]: This scale was originally validated in a chronic illness (non-cancer)
not included as it was found to have a number of flaws in its population and while it has been extensively used in
use. It also required the use of an initial screening tool to neurological disease and chronic fatigue, it has had very
identify patients with fatigue. The revised version of the scale limited use in cancer patients. It has only been used and
was included (see below). validated by one author in a few related studies [1, 26].
The Cancer Fatigue Scale [14] and the Fatigue Assessment However, no other studies were identified and it is not
Questionnaire [15] were both excluded as validated English recommended for use in the measurement of CRF.
language versions have not been published. The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Fatigue
The Fatigue Management Barriers Questionnaire [16], the (FACT F) subscale [27] is a 13-item stand-alone scale but is one
Clinical Survey for CRF (QFAS) [17] and the Cancer-Related of a range of the FACIT series of quality-of-life and tumour-
Fatigue Distress scale [18] were all excluded because although specific symptom questionnaires [22]. It has been used in
they have undergone pilot evaluation in cancer patients no a number of intervention studies to treat CRF, and the original
further published reports regarding their validity could be authors have been able to derive change in scale scores that
identified. correspond to minimum clinically significant differences [28].
This left 14 scales which met our criteria and have been This application makes it an especially useful measure for
included in the review. The scales have been divided into intervention studies.

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review Annals of Oncology

Table 2. Unidimensional scales

Scale name BFI [18] EORTC QLQ FSS [20] FACT F [21] POMS F [22]
(FS) [19]
Number of items 9 3 9 13 7
Scale type Numerical Likert Numerical Numerical Likert
Population studied in Mixed cancer Three populations: Chronic illness Mixed cancer Mixed work
original validation study lung cancer, bone population patients on population and
marrow transplant, treatment psychiatric patients
metastatic cancer
Internal consistency 0.96 0.80–0.85 0.96 0.95 0.90–0.94
Dimensions fatigue Physical Physical Physical Physical Physical functioning
covered functioning functioning functioning functioning
Test & retest reliability – – Subset 87 patients, r = 0.90 r = 0.66 (12–16
3/52 later (3–7 days later) weeks later)
measurement,
error 4.7 units
Known group comparison Distinguished Distinguished Distinguished CRF Distinguished Distinguished between
(discriminant validity) CRF from between local versus healthy between three known chronic fatigue

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community and regional controls haemoglobin levels syndrome and
adults disease (>13, 11–13 and <11) controls (N = 6275)
Responsiveness to change Not done On the basis of Not done Minimum clinical MCID derived
performance status important difference (5.6 points)
deterioration (MCID) derived
(3 points)
Convergent validity POMS F, Fatigue EORTC, r = 0.83 Piper Fatigue Scale, Not done
(against other scales) r = 0.84 Questionnaire, r = 20.75; POMS F,
r = 0.49–0.75 r = 0.74
Number of participants 305 366 227 50 695
tested in original
validation study
Populations studied A/P/S A/P/S A/P A/P/S A/P/S
(active/palliative/
survivors)
Approximate number 4 (2300) >10 (>5000) 1 (100) >50 (>5000) >20 (>2000)
of further cancer
studies and participantsa

Where internal consistency—Cronbach’s alpha unless otherwise stated; convergent validity—Pearson’s correlation value unless otherwise stated. A, active
treatment population; P, palliative care population; S, disease-free survivors; CRF, cancer-related fatigue. Scale abbreviations: BFI, Brief Fatigue Inventory;
EORTC QLQ C30 FS, European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Fatigue subscale; FSS, Fatigue Severity
Scale; FACT F, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Fatigue subscale; POMS F, Profile of Mood States Fatigue subscale.
a
This involved cross-referencing studies in Medline and Web of Science and identifying studies in cancer where the scale has been used
subsequently.

The Profile of Mood States [29] was originally used as The Chalder Fatigue Scale—also known as the Fatigue
a measure of workforce health. It contains a number of scales Questionnaire (FQ) [33]—is an 11-item scale that was
including a fatigue subscale of seven items which has been originally validated in a general practice setting. However, its
independently examined in both a non-cancer [30] and main use has been in the investigation of chronic fatigue
a cancer population [31]. It has also been used to provide syndrome. It is brief and easy to administer while still covering
convergent validity in the validation of a number of other scales two aspects of fatigue (mental and physical). It has been used in
used in CRF. It has a defined minimum clinically significant population studies and so has normative data available for
difference [32]. Its extensive use in studies has meant there comparison with cancer patients [34, 41].
are ample data available to recommend its continued use in The Fatigue Symptom Inventory (FSI) [35] is a 13-item scale
this setting. that was originally validated in a breast cancer population. A
subsequent validation study involved 342 mixed cancer patients
multidimensional scales [42]. It has reasonable psychometric properties but there is
There were nine scales included in this category. Full details of a question over its test–retest reliability. It has been used in
these scales can be found in Table 3. a number of studies but with overall small numbers of patients.

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Annals of Oncology review
Table 3. Multidimensional scales

Scale name FQ [30] FSI [33] VASF [34] MAF [35]


Number of items 11 13 18 16
Scale type Likert Numerical Visual analogue scale Numerical
Original validation General practice Breast cancer on Patients with sleep Arthritis patients
sample treatment disorders
Internal consistency 0.88–0.90 0.94 0.91–0.96 0.93
Dimensions fatigue Physical and mental Physical and mental Physical and mental Distress,
covered interference,
severity, cognitive
Test & retest Not done Range of values: Not done Not done
reliability patients,
r = 0.35–0.75;
controls,
r = 0.10–0.74
Known group Distinguished Distinguished between Distinguished between Distinguished
comparison between Hodgkin’s healthy controls and patients with sleep between patients

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(discriminant disease and general breast cancer disorders and healthy with arthritis
validity) population patients controls and healthy
controls
Responsiveness Not done Distinguished between Limited ability to Not done
to change pre- and post- detect changes over
treatment fatigue treatment period
levels
Convergent validity Fatigue item on POMS F, r = 0.75 POMS F, POMS F, r = 0.78
(against other scales) clinical interview r = 0.58–0.78
schedule
Number of participants 374 270 122 50
tested in original
sample
Populations studied A/P/S A/S A only A only
(active/palliative/
survivors)
Approximate number >10 (>2000) 7 (700) 3 (250) 3 (760)
of further cancer
studies and
participants
Scale name MFI-20 [36] MFSI-30 [37] PFS (revised) [38] Schwartz CFS [39] Wu CFS [40]
Number of items 20 30 22 28 9
Scale type Likert Likert Likert Likert Likert
Original validation Mixed cancer Breast cancer Breast cancer Mixed cancer Breast cancer
sample population population population population population
Internal consistency 0.84 0.87–0.96 0.97 0.96 0.91
Dimensions fatigue Cognitive, physical Cognitive, physical Temporal, intensity, Physical, emotional Physical and
covered and emotional and mental cognitive, affective and cognitive emotional
and sensory
Test & retest reliability Not done Three occasions, r = 0.98 Not done Not done
r > 0.50
Known group Distinguished between Distinguished Significant differences Significant None
comparison cancer patients, between cancer between lung and differences in
(discriminant healthy controls patients and healthy breast cancer fatigue pre-
validity) and doctors controls patients and post-first
on shift work chemotherapy
cycle
Responsiveness to Monitored change Not done Not done MCID calculated Not done
change over course of on treatment
radiotherapy population
(5 points)

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review Annals of Oncology

Table 3. (Continued)

Convergent validity VASF, r = 0.77 Short form 36, MFI subscale POMS F—not Schwartz CFS,
(against other scales) r = 0.55; FSI, r = 0.74 r = 0.84 quantified r = 0.84
Number of participants 111 cancer patients 275 382 166 82
tested in original (1200 controls)
validation
Populations studied A/P/S A/S (breast only) A/S (breast only) A only A (breast only)
(active/palliative/
survivors)
Approximate number >20 (2000) 3 (380) 9 (800) 2 (300) 1 (170)
of further cancer
studies and participantsa

Where internal consistency—Cronbach’s alpha unless otherwise stated; convergent validity—Pearson’s correlation value unless otherwise stated.
MCID, minimum clinically important difference; POMS F, Profile of Mood States Fatigue subscale; A, active treatment population; P, palliative
care population; S, disease-free survivors. Scale abbreviations: FQ, Fatigue Questionnaire; FSI, Fatigue Severity Inventory; VASF, Visual Analogue
Scale for Fatigue; MAF, Multidimensional Assessment of Fatigue; MFI-20, Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory; MFSI-30, Multidimensional Fatigue
Symptom Inventory short form; PFS, Piper Fatigue Scale (revised); Schwartz CFS, Schwartz Cancer Fatigue Scale; Wu CFS, Wu Cancer

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Fatigue Scale.
a
This involved cross-referencing studies in Medline and Web of Science and identifying studies in cancer where the scale has been used subsequently.

Its areas of measurement have been limited to patients properties; however, its use in clinical studies has been
undergoing active treatment and survivors. somewhat limited. There have only been two additional studies
The Lee fatigue scale (or Visual Analogue Scale for reporting its use in breast cancer survivors.
Fatigue—VASF) [36] is an 18-item tool that was originally Its use beyond this group will require further validation.
validated in a group of patients with sleep disorders. It has had The revised PFS [45] is a shorter version of the original scale
very limited use in cancer patients. Its psychometric properties [13]. Piper reported some limitations to her original fatigue
were assessed in a sample of 212 mixed cancer patients scale [13] and she went on develop a revised version. This
undergoing treatment [31]. However, because of a potential revised scale consists of 22 items and has been validated in
overlap with measures of sleep disturbance it is not a group of breast cancer survivors [45]. There are limited data
recommended for use in CRF measurement. on the psychometric properties of the revised scale for use in
The Multidimensional Assessment of Fatigue (MAF) [43] is cancer patients although data are available in other
a 16-item scale that was originally validated in rheumatoid populations. While the scale has since been used in a small
arthritis patients. Its psychometric properties were assessed in number of studies of cancer patients, the majority of these
the same sample of cancer patients previously discussed with studies have been undertaken in breast cancer patients
respect to the VASF [31]. It was also used (as one of a number undergoing treatment and in breast cancer survivors. There are
of fatigue measures) by Morrow and colleagues in two little or no data in other cancer populations.
subsequent intervention studies examining the role of The Schwartz Cancer Fatigue Scale [46] is a 28-item scale
antidepressants in treating fatigue [10, 37]. Compared with that was validated in a mixed cancer population undergoing
other fatigue instruments included in this review, it has been treatment. Its psychometric properties were further examined
relatively poorly validated and its use in further studies cannot (along with the VASF and the MAF) in the study of 212 mixed
be recommended unless further validation work is undertaken. cancer patients discussed previously [31]. Schwartz has also
The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI-20) [44] is determined the minimum clinically significant difference in
a 20-item scale that was designed for use in cancer patients. Its a further study [32] on 103 mixed cancer patients undergoing
original validation had a number of group comparisons treatment. We did not find any other studies that have used this
including both healthy controls and groups of subjects who at scale. Its usefulness despite extensive psychometric data must
various time points were expected to be fatigued. This included therefore be questioned.
army trainees and doctors undertaking shift work. This means The Wu Cancer Fatigue Scale [47]: The original scale had 16
there are normative data available for reference. It was further items but a secondary validation study found redundant items
validated for use in cancer in a subsequent study of 275 patients and the scale was revised to include only nine items [48]. The
undergoing radiotherapy [38]. It has since been used in instrument has undergone limited psychometric evaluation and
a number of studies but with small numbers of patients in each has not been used in any subsequent studies. The relative lack
study. of data means that it cannot be recommended for further use.
The Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory short
form (MFSI-30) [39] is a 30-item scale that was originally
investigated in a group of breast cancer patients undergoing
discussion
treatment. It was further validated in a mixed cancer This review has demonstrated the range and number of scales
population of 304 patients [40]. It has favourable psychometric available to specifically measure CRF. A number of other tools

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Annals of Oncology review
have been validated for the measurement of fatigue in completion time may be why their usage has been more
nonmalignant conditions and in the general population limited. Moreover, the advantages of measuring additional
but evaluation of these scales was beyond the scope of this ‘dimensions’ of fatigue are not clear [19]. As yet, there is no
review. clinical value in distinguishing between patients with
While this review has used systematic methodology, there predominantly ‘physical’, ‘cognitive’ or ‘motivational’ fatigue.
are some potential limitations. The titles and abstracts were Until the clinical importance of these proposed dimensions has
only screened by one author—this was because of limited time been clarified there is little incentive to use these scales outside
and resources. However, both authors agreed on the final of a research study. Indeed, some authors suggest that this
included studies. This includes three scales which were construct is redundant as CRF can be regarded as
identified but excluded from full analysis because only one a unidimensional phenomenom [19]. It is perhaps relevant that
published paper was available. These authors were not a number of multidimensional scales have been developed that
contacted for further unpublished data as a meta-analysis was have not been subsequently extensively used. Some of these
not possible with this type of review. As a result, obtaining these scales have up to 30 items and so could potentially more than
additional data would not have materially altered the double the administration time of all the unidimensional scales.
conclusions of the review (which concerned peer-reviewed The majority of the scales (seven out of nine) have data on
published data only). <1000 patients for any individual scale. In addition, three of
Our estimate of the number of studies that the various scales these seven scales have only been used in breast cancer patients
have been used in is on the basis of a comprehensive cross- and so their use is even more limited. The two exceptions are

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referencing in both Medline and the ISI citation index with the FQ and the MFI-20. These two scales have each been used
full text article retrieval if necessary. The purpose of to measure CRF in >2000 patients. However, this evaluates still
including these approximate figures is to give the reader an considerably fewer patients than the FACT F or EORTC QLQ
‘order of magnitude’ assessment about how often these scales C30. The FQ, by virtue of consisting of only 11 items, offers
have been used in previous studies. However, this method is a two-dimensional (physical and mental) assessment of fatigue
not foolproof (e.g. authors may have failed to reference the without an increase in the time required for administration. It
scale correctly) and so this is stated to be approximate numbers was not, however, originally designed for use in cancer patients,
only. whereas the MFI-20 was specifically created to measure fatigue
The unidimensional scales (which measure the in this population. Ultimately, the trade-off between
physical impact of fatigue) are the most widely used. They undertaking a comprehensive multidimensional assessment of
also have some of the most robust psychometric data to fatigue and the consequent problems of missing data and
support their use. Their limitation is the scope of questionnaire ‘burden’ will be a decision for individual
measurement—subjective fatigue is more than the sensation of researchers.
physical impairment. Although measuring physical fatigue
symptoms may include the social and functional impact of
physical fatigue. This extends beyond one aspect of fatigue that conclusions
could imply that these scales cover more than one dimension of
For most purposes, a unidimensional fatigue instrument is the
CRF.
appropriate measure. Of the many unidimensional scales
However, any theoretical limitation is compensated for by
available the best validated and most widely used are the
their ease of use and brevity (the scales contain between three
EORTC QLQ C30 fatigue subscale and the FACT F. The
and 13 items). The most widely used of these scales are the
EORTC subscale has the virtue of brevity and is usually used as
FACT F and the EORTC QLQ C30 fatigue subscale which have
part of the EORTC QLQ C30 quality-of-life assessment
data from over 10 000 patients between them and have been
instrument. However, its extreme brevity and limited number
widely used in intervention studies to treat CRF [49]. The
of response categories may make it less sensitive to changes in
FACT F has the advantage of having a validated clinically
fatigue and less able to detect differences in fatigue between
significant score change—it also covers the social impact of
groups. For this reason, the authors prefer the FACT F. This
CRF but takes longer to administer than the three-item EORTC
instrument is relatively brief, has robust psychometric
QLQ C30 fatigue subscale. The former should be used in
properties and can also be easily combined with a validated
a research setting and the latter could be used to monitor
quality-of-life assessment instrument (such as the FACT G). In
clinical effects. The Profile of Mood States Fatigue has also been
those circumstances where a multidimensional fatigue
extensively used but was not originally validated in cancer
instrument is required, the authors recommend the use of the
patients and has no clear advantage over the other two scales. It
FQ. Although not originally developed for use in cancer
has been used to help validate six out of the 14 scales included.
patients, this scale has robust psychometric properties and has
The widespread use in a healthy population could provide
been extensively used in other populations. It is brief, easy to
a useful baseline measure of fatigue in the general population
use and its dimensions have face validity.
[50] for comparison with a cancer patient group.
The multidimensional scales are much more limited in their
usage. While they offer the theoretical advantage of covering
more aspects of fatigue, such as the cognitive or affective
funding
symptoms, this is often at the expense of an increase in the OM was supported by a Wellcome Trust Value in People (VIP)
number of items. The more complex administration and award.

Volume 20 | No. 1 | January 2009 doi:10.1093/annonc/mdn537 | 23


review Annals of Oncology

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