Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer. People describe cancer fatigue as feeling "bone tired" or "a total lack of energy". This tiredness may affect your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It can last for months.
Fatigue can be caused by the disease itself, or by surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. 78 to 96% of patients receiving chemotherapy experience fatigue. Patients undergoing radiation therapy often experience fatigue also, regardless of the treatment site.
The severity varies from person to person. Some feel only mildly tired, while others have trouble getting out of bed or climbing stairs. Some patients may have to change their work schedules or work shorter hours. Patients affected by cancer fatigue may need help with chores, driving, and parenting.
Cancer fatigue can cause shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and loss of interest in sex. Fatigue can affect a person's ability to concentrate, think clearly, retain information, and make decisions. It can cause depression and anxiety, which in turn increase the feelings of tiredness.
Age, physical condition, and lifestyle are factors in how you might be affected by cancer fatigue.
As always, tell your doctor what you are experiencing. There may be treatments to minimize the fatigue, such as medication to increase low blood counts.
Some things you can do:
- ask your doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements
- contact a nutritionist who specializes in working with cancer patients. Your doctor or oncology nurse can give you a referral
- contact a physical therapist to formulate an exercise routine. It's best to see someone who regularly works with cancer patients.
- try changing your sleeping patterns
- try meditation or relaxation exercises
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