Cancer Treatment: Coping With Fatigue

Fatigue, feeling tired and lacking energy, is the most common symptom reported by cancer patients. The exact cause is not always known. It can be due to your disease, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, low blood counts, lack of sleep, pain, stress, poor appetite, along with many other factors.

Fatigue from cancer feels different from fatigue of everyday life. Fatigue caused by chemotherapy can appear suddenly. Patients with cancer have described it as a total lack of energy and have used words such as worn out, drained, and wiped out to describe their fatigue. And rest does not always relieve it. Not everyone feels the same kind of fatigue. You may not feel tired while someone else does or your fatigue may not last as long as someone else's does. It can last days, weeks, or months. But severe fatigue does go away gradually as the tumor responds to treatment.

How can I cope with fatigue?

  • Plan your day so that you have time to rest.


  • Take short naps or breaks, rather than one long rest period.


  • Save your energy for the most important things.


  • Try easier or shorter versions of activities you enjoy.


  • Take short walks or do light exercise if possible. You may find this helps with fatigue.


  • Talk to your health care provider about ways to save your energy and treat your fatigue.


  • Try activities such as meditation, prayer, yoga, guided imagery, visualization, etc. You may find that these help with fatigue.


  • Eat as well as you can and drink plenty of fluids. Eat small amounts at a time, if that is helpful.


  • Join a support group. Sharing your feelings with others can ease the burden of fatigue. You can learn how others deal with their fatigue. Your health care provider can put you in touch with a support group in your area.


  • Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink.


  • Allow others to do some things for you that you usually do.


  • Keep a diary of how you feel each day. This will help you plan your daily activities.


  • Report any changes in energy level to your doctor or nurse.

For more information about cancer therapy side effects, and coping with them, please read the  "Chemotherapy and Cancer Treatment, Coping with Side Effects" article.

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)


Last Editorial Review: 11/11/2002




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