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Women who feel fatigued after receiving a positive breast cancer test may actually have a process started in their body that speeds up the aging process and makes them look and feel old, according to a new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
The researchers said that one out of every three breast cancer patients deals with chronic fatigue. Their findings show that these women have an imbalance in their autonomic nervous system caused by the cancer.
The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts. The sympathetic system deals with rapid responses to immediate stimuli, while the parasympathetic system controls these responses and conserves energy.
However, the new findings suggest that breast cancer patients who suffer from chronic fatigue may have an overactive sympathetic system, which consumes large amounts of energy. This could be a sign of larger problems, the researchers said.
"Fatigue isn't a symptom that should be ignored. It's a marker for other things that might be going on," said lead researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. "When a cancer patient reports persistent fatigue following treatment, it is something that deserves attention. It may be a symptom of other things that matter."
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