Radiation therapy can be an incredibly draining form of treatment for patients with cancer. Side effects such as fatigue can be debilitating for many before, during, and after treatment. Because symptom management is a crucial component to cancer care and central role of oncology nursing, ensuring that patients are able to mitigate their symptoms and side effects can help improve their quality of life. Recently, a team at the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) identified certain genes associated with fatigue in men being treated for prostate cancer.

The findings could potentially help healthcare professionals identify and predict which patients would suffer from more debilitating forms of fatigue than others. Studies like this one could also use a patient’s genetic makeup to measure susceptibility to a potential side effect, allowing practitioners to recommend proactive interventions. Ultimately, the study recognized that T cells played a key role in chronic inflammation, which led to heightened fatigue in patients. The authors also noted that the genes could contribute to individual immune system differences when responding to radiation.

A cancer diagnosis can be all consuming, and many of the elements associated with treatment and recovery are still not fully understood. The nurse researchers and scientists at NINR continue to develop programs to understand the complexities of cancer and patient care. Although there’s always more to learn about cancer treatments, nurse scientists are hard at work delivering new knowledge for clinical practice and patient-centered care.