A trial of telephone support for people with tiredness (fatigue) caused by chemotherapy

Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Breast cancer
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma





This trial tested a telephone support service to help people with moderate to severe chemotherapy related tiredness (fatigue).

Fatigue is a very common side effect of chemotherapy. Many people find that they become more tired as their treatment goes on. Fatigue can be distressing and affect people’s quality of life.

Researchers have been looking at treating cancer related fatigue using teaching and support. People who had this type of help from nurses found that their fatigue improved. Researchers also found that talking to people individually was more successful than talking in groups.

In this trial, researchers looked at telephone support. The trial was in 2 parts. The 1st part looked at what a small group of patients and health care professionals thought about cancer nurses using the telephone to contact people, and support them in their homes. The 2nd part tested the support service.

The researchers hoped that telephone support would improve quality of life and reduce feelings of fatigue, anxiety and depression. The aim of the trial was to test how well the support plan worked to reduce chemotherapy related fatigue

Summary of results

The researchers found that the telephone support service helped people with chemotherapy related fatigue. It helped to reduce feelings of fatigue and the distress that it caused.

8 people who’d had chemotherapy and 12 healthcare professionals including cancer doctors and nurses joined the 1st part of the trial. The researchers talked to them all to get ideas on how to put the telephone support system into practice. When they had all the information they needed, the 2nd part of the trial began.

44 people having chemotherapy through a drip into a vein joined the 2nd part of the trial

  • Half had 3 sessions by phone over a period of 3 months. These were with an experienced cancer nurse offering information and support
  • Half had care as usual 

Everyone filled out questionnaires before the trial started and after it finished. The questionnaires asked about how people had been feeling and about issues such as fatigue, anxiety and depression.

The researchers compared the answers in the questionnaires. They found that

  • The people who had telephone support reported feeling less fatigued and anxious than the people who had usual care
  • The people who had usual care reported that their feelings of fatigue and anxiety got worse over time
  • There was no difference between the 2 groups in how depressed people felt  

The researchers concluded that this small trial showed it was possible to offer telephone support to people with fatigue from chemotherapy. They recommend that this is looked at further in a larger clinical trial. 
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

Professor Emma Ream

Supported by

King's College London
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI)

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 1109

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

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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