Treatments & Services

Fatigue

What is Cancer-Related Fatigue? Cancer-related fatigue can cause a person to feel weak and to lose interest in people and daily activities. It is an overwhelming daily lack of energy that can have an impact on every aspect of a person’s life. Tiredness may be caused by the disease itself, or by medical treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Cancer-related fatigue is not related to physical activity, nor can it be relieved with a good night’s sleep. If you have cancer and are experiencing fatigue, rest assured you are not the only one. The majority of cancer patients experience fatigue, and it has been found to be the most significant adverse effect of cancer treatment. Yet, fatigue remains one of the most overlooked and under-treated side effects of cancer.

What Causes Cancer-Related Fatigue?
Physical problems, mental stress or difficulties in your daily life can cause fatigue. The most common causes of cancer-related fatigue are:

  • Anemia
  • Anxiety
  • Chemotherapy
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Tumors

How Do I Know If I Am Fatigued?
Although fatigue does not affect everyone in the same way, there are some common ways people look or act when they are fatigued. The most common symptoms of fatigue include extreme weariness and tiredness. If you are fatigued, you may experience some of the following signs:

  • Difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
  • Shortness of breath after light activity
  • Difficulty performing simple tasks such as cooking, cleaning or taking a shower
  • Unable to do as much during the day as usual
  • A desire to sleep more
  • Slower speech
  • Feeling like crying or depressed
  • Paleness or shakiness

Simple Ways to Relieve Fatigue
To combat cancer-related fatigue, cancer patients must learn to conserve energy on a daily basis. Energy conservation plays a very significant role in managing fatigue. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to take charge of your life and minimize the effects of fatigue. Here are some recommendations:

Get Plenty of Rest
It is important to start and follow a normal and regular sleeping routine.

  • Go to bed earlier and sleep later.
  • Do not fight fatigue. Rest when you need it.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine in the evening.
Plan and Delegate Activities
  • Try to keep to a regular daily routine that is reasonable, but do not feel like you have to keep up with your normal activities.
  • Limit and prioritize activities. Do the important ones first and decrease the number of less important activities.
  • Accept offers from friends and family to help with chores.

Manage Your Stress
As a person with cancer, it is particularly important for you to get a handle on the stresses in your life. Take time to put them in perspective and work to eliminate unhealthy or unnecessary stress in your life.

Eat A Balanced Diet
It is important to eat the right foods that give you energy.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse to refer a dietician, who can also give you helpful ideas.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with small, but frequent meals.
  • Drinks lots of water throughout the day to help your body eliminate toxins.
  • To avoid the fast-food trap, prepare balance meals ahead of time and freeze them.
  • When preparing nutritious meals, double the recipe and freeze the extra portions for future meals.

Continue To Have A Social Life
To lessen fatigue, many people tend to let go of their social life and other fun activities first. While limiting your social life does conserve energy, it is important to do things in your daily life that make you happy. It is best to keep a balance between the activities you must do and those you love to do.

Exercise Daily
Regular, light exercise such as walking can significantly help to relieve fatigue.

  • Plan to get some form of exercise every day.
  • It is much easier to exercise when you enjoy it. Whether it is walking, bicycling or swimming, choose something you like to do.
  • Talk to your doctor about the amount and duration of exercise that is appropriate for you.
United in Healing with the US Oncology Network