Couples coping with colorectal cancer were monitored during the first year after diagnosis to evaluate the following: (i) levels of patients' and partners' fatigue-hereby comparing their scores to each other and a normative population, (ii) association between patients' and partners' fatigue, (iii) the course of partners' fatigue, and (iv) biopsychosocial predictors of the partners' fatigue, including the patients' level of fatigue.
Couples (n = 171) preoperatively completed questions regarding age and sex as well as questionnaires assessing neuroticism and trait anxiety. Questionnaires assessing fatigue, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were measured preoperative (time-0) and 3 (time-1), 6 (time-2), and 12 months (time-3) postoperative. Patients' clinical characteristics were retrieved from the Eindhoven Cancer Registry. Descriptive statistics, correlations, and linear mixed effect models were used.
Compared with a normative population, partners' fatigue was similar (p > .05), while patients' fatigue was higher at Time-2 and Time-3 (p values <.001). At each time point, correlations between patients' and partners' fatigue were small (r < .30). Partner's course of fatigue was as follows: 18.2 at time-0, 19.0 at time-1, 19.4 at time-2, and 19.2 at time-3 (p = 0.64). Scoring higher on neuroticism (β = .12) and trait anxiety (β = .23), and more depressive symptoms (β = .30) significantly contributed to higher partners' fatigue.
Trait anxiety, neuroticism, and depressive symptoms predicted higher levels of partners' fatigue, while demographic factors, patients' fatigue, and clinical factors did not. Health professionals are advised to be alert for partners with a vulnerable personality and depressive symptoms. If needed, they can for instance refer to a psychologist for treatment.