A study looking at long term side effects after treatment for early stage breast cancer

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study looked at sleep and memory problems and the causes of severe tiredness (fatigue) after treatment for early stage breast cancer. This study was supported by Cancer Research UK.

Treatment for early stage breast cancer often works well and you can remain free of breast cancer in the long term. But it is possible that you will have long term side effects from your treatment. These side effects may include tiredness and lack of energy (fatigue) and sleep, mood and memory problems. We know from research that some patients find fatigue more distressing than pain or feeling and being sick.

Researchers want to understand more about the causes of fatigue after treatment for early breast cancer. The aims of this study were to

  • Look at the relationship between fatigue, sleep problems and memory disturbances
  • Identify and monitor proteins in the blood (markers) that are linked to fatigue

Summary of results

The research team found that a significant number of women who’d had treatment for breast cancer had cancer related fatigue syndrome (CRFS). CRFS is when extreme fatigue affects your physical or mental (cognitive) ability to do everyday things.

This study recruited 114 women from St George’s Hospital in London. The women taking part had finished treatment for early stage breast cancer between 3 months and 2 years before they joined the study. Of the 114 women,

  • 45 women had cancer related fatigue syndrome (CFRS)
  • 69 women didn’t have CFRS and became the control group Open a glossary item

The research team assessed everyone taking part to find out more about the effect fatigue had. The women taking part

  • Had a blood test
  • Completed questionnaires
  • Completed an activity record
  • Did a test on a computer to measure their memory and motor skills

The research team found that there were significant differences between the CRFS group and the control group with

  • Sleep quality
  • Daytime activity level
  • Memory
  • How quickly they could do things or work things out
  • Levels of proteins called cytokines Open a glossary item in the blood

The research team concluded that a significant number of women have CRFS, and that it affects their daily activities. They recommend that health care professionals routinely identify women with, or at risk of, CRFS and give them more information and advice about coping with fatigue.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Ollie Minton

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/06/042.

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 3469

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Deborah wanted to help other breast cancer patients in the future

A picture of Deborah

“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."

Last reviewed:

Rate this page:

Currently rated: 5 out of 5 based on 1 vote
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think