Personalizing psychological care for chronic cancer-related fatigue: A case study on symptom dynamics.
Approximately 25% of cancer patients suffer from chronic cancer-related fatigue (CCRF), which is a complex, multifactorial condition. While there are evidence-based interventions, it remains unclear what treatment works best for the individual patient. Psychological network models can offer a schematic representation of interrelations among fatigue and protective and perpetuating factors for the individual patient. We explored whether feedback based on these individual fatigue networks can help personalize psychological care for CCRF. A 34-year old woman with CCRF was referred to our mental healthcare institute for psycho-oncology. During the waitlist period, she filled out an experience sampling app for 101 days, including five daily assessments of fatigue, pain, mood, activity and fatigue coping. The interplay between items was visualized in network graphs at the moment-level and day-level, which were discussed with the patient. For example, acceptance of fatigue in the past three hours was associated with less hopelessness and less fatigue in the following moment. At the day-level, acceptance was also being associated with less fatigue, less hopelessness, a better mood, and more motivation to do things. The patient recognized these patterns and explained how unexpected waves of fatigue can make her feel hopeless. This started a dialogue on how cultivating acceptance could potentially help her handle the fatigue. The patient would discuss this with her therapist. Feedback based on individual fatigue networks can provide direct insight into how one copes with CCRF and subsequently offer directions for treatment. Further research is needed in order to implement this in clinical practice.
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