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Ways to Help Manage Cancer-related Fatigue

04 February, 2021 Darshita Srivastava

Fatigue experience by cancer patient can be categorized as mental, physical, or emotional. We might resort to rest for normal fatigue, but cancer-related fatigue does not heal with just rest.

Some cancer patients, however, may have fatigue that continues for months or even longer after the treatment has ended. They describe this fatigue to be a feeling of constant exhaustion and drowsiness.

A person having cancer-related fatigue, experiences its effects on various aspects of their lives. For some cancer patients, the fatigue is just bothersome but for others, it can be much more of a challenge that makes it hard for them to complete regular activities.

  • Cancer related fatigue may make it hard for you to spend time with your loved ones, go to school, or even attend social events.
  • Low energy levels can make it difficult for you to work or attend the doctor’s appointments and treatments.
  • You may find it hard to think or make important decisions.
  • Fatigue can affect your mood where you may feel more emotional or easily bothered by others.

Reasons for fatigue

There are various reasons why people with cancer may encounter fatigue.

1. Fatigue can not only be caused by cancer itself or the cancer treatments. There is often more than just one cause.

2. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, or immunotherapy.

3. Not sleeping well at night may make you feel tired.

4. Stress and emotions such as anger, depression, and anxiety may cause or worsen fatigue.

5. Certain medicines that you intake can also make you feel drowsy. These may include medicines prescribed by the doctors or some over-the-counter medicines.

6. Not eating well when you have cancer may make the fatigue worse.

7. Anemia can be the reason for your drowsiness

8. Other cancer side effects such as pain, nausea, or diarrhea that cannot be controlled can instigate your cancer fatigue.

It is important to understand that if you feel more tired, it does not necessarily mean that your cancer has gotten worse. Your fatigue may be from any of the causes mentioned above.

Managing and fighting cancer fatigue

Relief from any side effects including fatigue is an important part of cancer care. Some of these ways are:

1. Exercise helps fight fatigue, heighten your energy levels, relieve tension, make your muscles stronger, and also helps you sleep better. However, precautions might have to be taken, so consult your doctor once before following an exercise regime.

2. Space your activities throughout the day and take time out for rest in between your activities. Rest is important but do not take naps longer than an hour or it will hinder your night’s sleep. It may be helpful to keep a diary to write down the times during the day when you have the greatest amount of energy. Choose those times for the things that are most important to you.

3. Distractions such as games, music, reading, or talking with others can be helpful to lower fatigue. You may also find yoga, acupuncture, or massage helpful in relieving fatigue.

4. Let family and friends help with work around the home, such as fixing meals or running errands.

5. Drink plenty of water or non-caffeinated fluids unless you are given instructions not to by the doctor. Try to drink eight to ten glasses per day.

6. Eat to improve your energy level. Try eating small meals or snacks throughout the day. Your dietician can share information about how to fight fatigue with good nutrition. Good nutrition may help to lessen nausea and deal with changes in your appetite or taste.

7. You may find it helpful to meet with a counselor or join a support group to talk about your cancer diagnosis and treatment. You can also learn relaxation techniques to help manage your stress.

8. It is important to tell your doctor about any other cancer-related symptoms or side effects you may have such as pain, nausea, or diarrhea that may be adding to your fatigue.

Call your doctor right away if:

  • You feel confused or if your thoughts are not clear.
  • You have been too tired to get out of bed for the past 24 hours or more.
  • Your fatigue becomes worse.

By letting your doctor know how you are feeling, the right treatment can be initiated to help manage your fatigue or any other side effects.


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