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Insomnia Prevalence High for Chemotherapy Patients

Study suggests need to develop interventions to prevent and treat insomnia in cancer patients

FRIDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, insomnia is about three times as prevalent as it is among the general population, according to a study published online Nov. 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Oxana G. Palesh, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues studied insomnia in 823 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy (mean age, 58 years).

The researchers found that that 36.6 percent of patients reported insomnia symptoms during day seven of cycle one of chemotherapy, and that 43 percent met the diagnostic criteria for insomnia syndrome. They also found that 60 percent of patients with insomnia reported that their symptoms did not change from cycle one to cycle two of chemotherapy. Breast cancer patients were most likely to experience insomnia, and all patients with insomnia were more likely to be affected by depression and fatigue.

"Given the high rate of insomnia in patients with cancer, more investigation into its prevalence in specific cancer populations is needed," the authors conclude. "Additional research is likely to uncover cancer-specific physiological, psychological, and behavioral factors that contribute to the development of insomnia during chemotherapy. Future research should examine insomnia in other populations experiencing stress and major health issues (e.g., myocardial infarction) to improve our understanding of the causes of insomnia. And most importantly, interventions to prevent and treat insomnia in patients with cancer must be developed and tested."

One author reported financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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