Cancer Patients Report Insomnia

The Duke Clinical Research Institute published data from a study that found patients with a new cancer diagnosis have problems sleeping.

The Duke Clinical Research Institute published data from a study that found patients with a new cancer diagnosis have problems sleeping. Kevin Weinfurt, PhD, associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology and neuroscience at Duke said, “Our study found that when it comes to overall impact upon quality of life, sleep disruption is highly significant.” According to the investigators, earlier studies suggest that nearly half of all people with cancer report sleep disruption and that the problem often persists after treatment has concluded.

Dr Weinfurt and colleagues mailed invitations to patients listed in the University’s tumor registry, inviting them to participate in focus groups. The study included 10 focus groups with 6 to 12 participants in each one. Seven groups included only patients in active treatment; the remaining 3 comprised patients who had finished treatment.

Many patients considered sleep disruption to be a major problem. Notable causes included hot flashes and night sweats. Others had difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position due to tenderness from a surgical site, radiation burns, or medical devices (eg, ports, tubing, or ostomy). Anxiety was another factor.

The investigators said some of the treatments for cancer, including hormonal therapies and chemotherapy, have side effects associated with insomnia and fatigue. Being immunocompromised is also related to insomnia. The patients said lack of sleep at night contributed to daytime tiredness and difficulty with concentration. The researchers concluded by saying there is not enough evidence to “guide the management of insomnia in patients with cancer,” and they recommended more attention be devoted to this issue. Results were published in PsychoOncology.