Attentional fatigue is experienced as a decreased ability to concentrate, engage in purposeful activity, and maintain social relationships when there are competing demands on attention. Breast and prostate cancer are the two most common cancers in women and men, respectively. Most previous studies on self-reported attentional fatigue evaluated patients with breast cancer.
To determine if self-reported attentional fatigue differed in patients with breast cancer and prostate cancer before radiation therapy (RT), and to determine the relationships between attentional fatigue and other symptoms in these two groups.
Patients (n = 155) completed questionnaires before RT. Descriptive statistics, Pearson’s correlations, and analysis of covariance were used for data analyses.
After controlling for age, patients with breast cancer reported significantly higher levels of attentional fatigue. In both groups, more attentional fatigue correlated significantly with more anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and physical fatigue. These correlations were stronger for patients with breast cancer.
This study is the first to identify differences in self-reported attentional fatigue between these two groups before RT. Additional research is warranted to determine factors that contribute to these differences, as well as mechanisms that underlie the development of attentional fatigue.
Implications for Practice
Clinicians should consider the capacity of their patients to direct attention when learning about RT and other treatments. It is important to simplify confusing health care terminology and reinforce teaching that is most important both verbally and in writing. Appropriate interventions for anxiety and depression may decrease attentional fatigue in these patients.