FATIGUE RELATED TO CANCER AND TREATMENT

Fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy and is characterized by a general tiredness or overwhelming lack of energy. It may be associated with an increased need for rest or an inability to regain energy with rest. There are no medical tests to measure fatigue caused by something other than anemia, or a low red blood cell count. Slow, gradual development of fatigue may lead to a decreased ability to perform everyday activities. Sudden changes in feelings of fatigue may mean there is a serious problem.

 

Causes of Fatigue

Many factors can cause fatigue by decreasing the body’s ability to produce energy or by consuming the little energy produced:

  • Cancer itself
  • Radiotherapy
  • Anemia (resulting in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the body)
  • Pain and pain medications
  • Infection
  • Cancer medications or treatments
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Too much activity
  • Not enough rest
  • Stress
  • Lack of sufficient sleep
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Other medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, thyroid dysfunction, and too much calcium in the blood, lack of oxygenation.

 

Treating Fatigue

If your fatigue is due to chemotherapy-related anemia it can be treated with different methods such as drugs, diet, or blood transfusions.

 

  1. A) Watch Nutrition

Some patients with cancer lose their appetite and find that food is no longer appealing.  However, maintaining good nutritional intake during treatment is especially important because cancer treatments increase the nutritional demands of the body. A visit with a dietitian or a nutrition specialist may help you find ways to maintain good nutrition. Diets rich in iron can help fight fatigue. You can ask your doctor about ways to increase your iron through diet.

  1. B) Conserve energy

You will likely have less energy during chemotherapy than you are used to. For this reason, it is important for patients to realistically plan their daily activities.

  • If necessary, ask for help from friends or family members whenever suitable.
  • Be careful not to schedule too much activity at once.
  • Create opportunities to rest throughout the day.
  • Follow a normal and regular sleep routine at night.

 

  1. C) Review all medications

Patients should review their medications (including over-the-counters drugs and dietary supplements) with their doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to ensure that the medications are not causing or contributing to feelings of fatigue.

 

  1. D) Get some exercise

While conserving energy is important, it is equally important to understand that too much rest or inactivity can actually decrease the body’s ability to produce energy or worsen fatigue.

Moderate exercise has been shown to improve the energy level of cancer patients. Ask your doctor what exercise might be appropriate for you.

 

  1. E) Reduce stress

Counseling, support services, and medications can all play an important role in reducing stress and alleviating fatigue.