A new study is recruiting cancer survivors to see if a beam of brightness can help to combat the lingering fatigue of chemotherapy.

Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary are embarking on the study to see whether light therapy will have measurable benefits for people with chronic fatigue who have successfully completed cancer treatment.

Experts say that cancer-related fatigue is one of the most prevalent and distressing symptoms that cancer patients experience and can last months or even years in up to a third of survivors.

“We know that exercise and changes to diet can help some of these people regain their energy, but they involve complex behaviour changes that aren’t always feasible in many cases,” says Jillian Johnson, the study’s research coordinator and a PhD student in psychology at the U of C. “If light therapy proves to have some measurable benefits, then it could be an easily accessible and simple form of treatment with the potential to benefit many people.”

Patients who receive the light therapy will be assessed to see if it helps improve sleep, quality of life and immune function.

The research measures stress hormones in people who have completed their cancer treatments for at least three months and two different wavelengths of light will be tested to see if one is more effective than the other.

It is believed that light therapy may help reset the body’s sleep cycle, which potent chemotherapy agents can sometimes disrupt in cancer patients.

“For many people, cancer-related fatigue can be the one lingering obstacle to regaining a satisfying life after cancer,” says Dr. Carlson, from the AHS’ Cancer Control Psychosocial Resources department at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

To be eligible for the study participants must be:

  • At least three months clear of their final cancer treatment and
  • Must not be a shift worker or suffer from sleep apnea

Participants will be required to give blood, maintain a sleep diary, use a light therapy device daily for four weeks, and visit a lab at the U of C four times.

Anyone interested in participating should phone 403-210-8606 or email lite@ucalgary.ca.