Pain, fatigue and depression are common sequelae of a cancer diagnosis. The extent to which these occur together in prostate cancer survivors is unknown. We (i) investigated prevalence of the pain-fatigue-depression symptom cluster and (ii) identified factors associated with experiencing the symptom cluster among prostate cancer survivors.
Men in Ireland diagnosed with prostate cancer 2-18 years previously were identified from population-based cancer registries and sent postal questionnaires. Cancer-related pain and fatigue were measured using the EORTC QLQ-C30 and depression using the DASS-21. Cut-offs to define ‘caseness’ were pain ≥ 25, fatigue ≥ 39 and depression ≥ 10. Associations between survivor-related factors, clinical variables and specific prostate cancer physical symptoms and the symptom cluster were assessed using multivariate logistic regression.
A total of 3348 men participated (response rate = 54%). Twenty-four percent had clinically significant pain, 19.7% had clinically significant fatigue, and 14.4% had depression; 7.3% had all three symptoms. In multivariate analysis, factors significantly associated with the symptom cluster were living in Northern Ireland, experiencing back pain at diagnosis and being affected by incontinence, loss of sexual desire, bowel problems, gynecomastia and hot flashes post-treatment. There was a strong association between the cluster and health-related quality of life.
The pain-fatigue-depression symptom cluster is present in 1 in 13 prostate cancer survivors. Physical after-effects of prostate cancer treatment are associated with this cluster. More attention should be paid to identifying and supporting survivors who experience multiple symptoms; this may help health-related quality of life improve among the growing population of prostate cancer survivors.