Restless legs syndrome and its relationship with anxiety, depression, and quality of life in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy

Luca Ostacoli, Andrea Saini, Luigi Ferini-Strambi, Vincenza Castronovo, Erica Sguazzotti, Rocco Luigi Picci, Mario Toje, Gabriella Gorzegno, Serena Capogna, Vincenzo Dongiovanni, Luigi Dogliotti, Pier Maria Furlan, Alfredo Berruti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common sensorimotor disorder characterized by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs that are relieved by movement. This study evaluated the prevalence of RLS in a consecutive series of cancer patients during chemotherapy and examined the relationship between presence of RLS and quality of life, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in these patients. Methods RLS was assessed according to the International RLS Study Group essential diagnostic criteria in two stages: a screening questionnaire first, followed by a sleep specialist-conducted structured diagnostic interview. The following questionnaires were administered: Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) for Quality-of-life (QoL) assessment; Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) to evaluate the levels of anxiety and depression; and Mini Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale (Mini-MAC) to assess coping styles. Results A total of 257 patients were evaluated. Among them 56 were identified by the screening questionnaire to meet the criteria for RLS and 47 of whom were confirmed as affected by RLS after a structured interview, rendering a prevalence rate of 18.3%. RLS was significantly more frequent in women than men (23.7 vs. 11.8%; P = 0.01), and in patients receiving antineoplastic therapies for more than 3 months than their counterpart (21.8 vs. 10.8%; P = 0.03). Compared with those without RLS, patients with RLS had higher levels of anxiety (P = 0.0009) and depression (P = 0.001) and lower quality of life (P = 0.006). Sex-chemotherapy-duration-adjusted odds ratios of anxiety and physical well-being associated with RLS were 1.1 (95% CI 1.00-1.19; P = 0.04) and 0.7 (95% CI 0.43-1.01; P = 0.04), respectively. Conclusions The prevalence of RLS in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is 18.3%, about double of that expected in the general population. The occurrence of RLS is much more frequent in female patients and with longerterm chemotherapy. Cancer patients afflicted by RLS have significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression, and poorer quality of life especially in the physical well-being dimension. Recognition and treatment of RLS in cancer patients is an important target in clinical management and may improve quality of life and overall health outcomes in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-537
Number of pages7
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Quality of life
  • Restless legs syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine(all)


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