Life After Cancer Treatment: Managing Fatigue

Some cancer survivors report that they still feel tired or worn out. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common complaints during the first year of recovery.

Rest or sleep does not cure the type of fatigue that you may have. Doctors do not know its exact causes. The causes of fatigue are different for people who are receiving treatment than they are for those who have finished.

  • Fatigue during treatment can be caused by cancer therapy. Other problems can also play a part in fatigue, like anemia (having too few red blood cells) or having a weak immune system. Poor nutrition, not drinking enough liquids, and depression can also be causes. Pain can make fatigue worse.
  • Researchers are still learning about what may cause fatigue after treatment.

How long will fatigue last? There is no normal pattern. For some, fatigue gets better over time. Some people, especially those who have had bone marrow transplants, may still feel energy loss years later.

Some people feel very frustrated when fatigue lasts longer than they think it should and when it gets in the way of their normal routine. They may also worry that their friends, family, and coworkers will get upset with them if they continue to show signs of fatigue.

Getting Help

Talk with your doctor or nurse about what may be causing your fatigue and what can be done about it. Ask about:

  • How any medicines you are taking or other medical problems you have might affect your energy level
  • How you can control your pain, if pain is a problem for you
  • Exercise programs that might help, such as walking
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Changing your diet or drinking more fluids
  • Medicines or nutritional supplements that can help
  • Specialists who might help you, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, or mental health care providers

Coping With Fatigue

Here are some ideas:

  • Plan your day. Be active at the time of day when you feel most alert and energetic.
  • Save your energy by changing how you do things. For example, sit on a stool while you cook or wash dishes.
  • Take short naps or rest breaks between activities.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Do what you enjoy, but do less of it. Focus on old or new interests that don't tire you out. For example, try to read something brief or listen to music.
  • Let others help you. They might cook a meal, run errands, or do the laundry. If no one offers, ask for what you need. Friends and family might be willing to help but may not know what to do.
  • Choose how to spend your energy. Try to let go of things that don't matter as much now.
  • Think about joining a support group. Talking about your fatigue with others who have had the same problem may help you find new ways to cope.

Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/life-after-treatment.pdf on June 5, 2018.

Document source: 
National Cancer Institute
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