Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatments. Often described as feeling extremely tired, weak, heavy, run down, and having no energy, cancer-related fatigue can have a big impact on every aspect of a person’s life, leaving them feeling weak and disinterested in both people and daily activities.
Usually, cancer-related fatigue comes on quickly. It is not related to physical activity, nor can it be relieved with a good night’s sleep. This, of course, can make it very hard to cope. While some fatigue is expected during cancer, fatigue that is persistent, lasting weeks and interfering with your daily routine should be brought to the attention of your cancer care team.
What Causes Cancer-Related Fatigue?
In addition to your cancer and treatment, cancer-related fatigue may be caused by:
Lack of sleep
Nausea or vomiting
Fatigue can really be compounded for cancer patients who often experience some of these conditions in addition to the fatigue caused by the treatment itself.
How Do I Know If I Am Fatigued?
Fatigue doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. However, there are some signs that indicate fatigue is present— the most common being extreme weariness and tiredness. Some other symptoms you might experience if you are fatigued include:
Trouble climbing stairs or walking short distances
Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
Looking pale and/or feeling shaky
Shortness of breath after light activity
Difficulty performing simple tasks such as cooking, cleaning or taking a shower
Inability to do as much during the day
A desire to sleep more
Feeling like crying or depressed
Simple Ways to Relieve Fatigue
Energy conservation plays a very significant role in how cancer patients manage fatigue. The more energy you conserve on a daily basis the better you’ll be able to combat cancer-related fatigue. The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to take charge of your life and minimize the effects of fatigue:
Get Enough Rest
It is important to start and follow a normal and regular sleeping routine.
Go to bed earlier and sleep later.
Don’t push through fatigue. Rest as needed.
Skip drinking caffeine at night.
Plan and Delegate Activities
Maintain a reasonable daily routine, but don’t 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.
Allow friends and family to help with chores.
Manage Your Stress
Stress isn’t healthy for anyone, but it’s especially unhealthy for someone with cancer. Take time to put your personal stresses in perspective and work towards eliminating them.
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 flush toxins from your body.
Avoid eating fast food by preparing and freezing balanced meals ahead of time.
Double the recipe on nutritious meals, freezing the extra portions for future meals.
Continue To Have A Social Life
While maintaining a social life and participating in fun activities won’t lessen fatigue, it will keep you happy. Don’t overdo it, but find a balance when it comes to what you must do and what you love to do.
Stay Physically Active
It sounds contrary to conserving energy, but regular, light exercise such as walking can significantly help to relieve fatigue.
Aim for some form of exercise each day, even if you don’t really feel like doing it beforehand.
It is much easier to exercise when you enjoy it. Try yoga or walking with a friend. Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise are best for you, as well as how often and how long you can engage in them.
Tell Your Cancer Care Team How You’re Really Feeling
If you feel like cancer-related fatigue is making it difficult for you to get up and be active, especially if it’s been a week or more after chemotherapy, talk to your cancer care team. The cancer specialists at Affiliated Oncologists are there to help you through this and any other side effects of cancer treatment that you may be experiencing.