Cancer Related Fatigue: Managing, Treating & Ways to Cope with It

Dr. Manjunath NML, Surgical Oncology, HCG Panda Cancer Hospital

Recovering from cancer is long process that involves taking care of our overall health and staying energized to sail through the post-treatment procedures. It needs us to conserve our energies and restore them when we start feeling unusually tired and exhausted. One of the most common symptoms of cancer treatment is feeling fatigued, it is different from feeling bodily tired and may turn acute and chronic with time. It is defined as severe lack of energy that may have a profound impact on the patient’s health and quality of life, if left ignored and unattended.

What is Cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue must not be confused with usual tiredness. Almost all types of cancers and their treatments can cause fatigue owing to the weak immune system that finds it hard to fight the disease. Many patients have referred their experiences of feeling fatigued as paralyzing, which is difficult to heal even with extended hours of sleep and eating healthy. It exhausts a person both emotionally and physically. This type of chronic fatigue is witnessed in about 80% of the patients with cancer. While some may experience fatigue only during the time of treatment, however, for many, it continues to linger around for years.

Causes of Cancer Fatigue

Cancer fatigue is caused mainly due to the after effects of the treatments given, as well as other health issues that may arise during this phase.

Surgery, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy and Radiation Therapy – all types of cancer treatments can cause fatigue. As a result of these treatments, the patient feels nauseated, dehydrated, have anaemia, inflammation, experience changes in the hormones, tissues, and cells. Administration of drugs for prolonged periods can result in persistent fatigue until the treatment cycle is completed. Medications that are prescribed can also cause cancer fatigue as they lead to severe pain, anxieties and depression. Insomnia, stress, anxieties and sedentary lifestyle can also cause cancer fatigue.

Identifying Signs of Cancer Fatigue

It is important to keep a note of the warning signs that indicate cancer fatigue. Lack of energy, tired eyes and legs, stiffness in the shoulders and whole-body tiredness, lack of motivation, anxiety, sleepiness, and impatience are the most common signs of cancer fatigue. Notifying the Oncologist about these symptoms will help in assessing the condition and check for any hidden signs of infection or any other problem such as anaemia.

Managing Cancer Fatigue

Since these symptoms are not normal, the best way to manage is to treat its underlying cause. While blood tests will help in diagnosing certain causes of cancer fatigue like hypothyroidism or low haemoglobin, for others, making lifestyle changes can help. It is important to eat healthy, exercise, and stay active. If the patients are persistently fatigued, it will result in feeling exhausted, unable to concentrate and think clearly. Check for signs of continuous emotional distress, pain or nausea in the everyday life and consult the corresponding doctor at the earliest. While there are no medications to treat fatigue, taking care of the problems triggering fatigue can help. Consulting clinicians for recommendations on exercising depending on the type of treatment the patient is undergoing, and any dietary changes to help the patient conserve energy is crucial. Practice breathing and stretching exercises to reduce fatigue and relax.

Ensuring daily food intake meets the required calorie intake can prove valuable. Eating protein rich food can help muscle mass, and repair body tissue, while keeping the body satiated for long hours. Drink fluids to avoid dehydration. Consultation with a dietician for additional vitamin supplements, if required.

Exercising can also reduce fatigue and will keep the body energised. Due to long hours of sitting or lying down, the body tends to become weak and lethargic. If not every day, exercising on alternate days and doing household chores and slow walking prepares the body to adapt itself to various types of activities. This will also help in keeping comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, obesity under control, thereby the body gets better sleep and good appetite. It must also be kept in mind that too much exercising can be harmful and can result in soreness or extreme exhaustion.

Few other easy ways to manage fatigue includes taking short breaks in between work to rest, keeping things organized to avoid getting distressed over small things, reduce straining of the body by continuously sitting or standing, completing the tasks at one’s own pace. Adapt healthy sleeping habits. Wear comfortable clothes and reduce stress-inducing jobs. Stay away from passive smoking. Plan and delegate tasks to work efficiently and reduce work-related stress. Set realistic expectations and pursue hobbies that do not require long hours of physical labour.

How long does cancer fatigue last?

Not every cancer patient experiences the same kind of fatigue. Some may feel fatigue on days of chemotherapy or radiation therapy while some feel chronically exhausted. Since it is unique for every patient, it depends on the type of treatment given, stage of cancer and overall health.

Cancer is a chronic illness that poses many challenges during its treatment and later. Cancer fatigue being one of them, it needs to be taken care of and must not be ignored to ensure healthy recovery and leading an improved quality of life. Taking small steps can keep the patients energized and fight fatigue better.

Cancer Related Fatigue: Managing, Treating & Ways to Cope with It

Dr. Manjunath NML, Surgical Oncology, HCG Panda Cancer Hospital
Recovering from cancer is long process that involves taking care of our overall health and staying energized to sail through the post-treatment procedures. It needs us to conserve our energies and restore them when we start feeling unusually tired and exhausted. One of the most common symptoms of cancer treatment is feeling fatigued, it is different from feeling bodily tired and may turn acute and chronic with time. It is defined as severe lack of energy that may have a profound impact on the patient’s health and quality of life, if left ignored and unattended.

What is Cancer-related fatigue?
Cancer-related fatigue must not be confused with usual tiredness. Almost all types of cancers and their treatments can cause fatigue owing to the weak immune system that finds it hard to fight the disease. Many patients have referred their experiences of feeling fatigued as paralyzing, which is difficult to heal even with extended hours of sleep and eating healthy. It exhausts a person both emotionally and physically. This type of chronic fatigue is witnessed in about 80% of the patients with cancer. While some may experience fatigue only during the time of treatment, however, for many, it continues to linger around for years.
Causes of Cancer Fatigue
Cancer fatigue is caused mainly due to the after effects of the treatments given, as well as other health issues that may arise during this phase.

Surgery, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy and Radiation Therapy – all types of cancer treatments can cause fatigue. As a result of these treatments, the patient feels nauseated, dehydrated, have anaemia, inflammation, experience changes in the hormones, tissues, and cells. Administration of drugs for prolonged periods can result in persistent fatigue until the treatment cycle is completed. Medications that are prescribed can also cause cancer fatigue as they lead to severe pain, anxieties and depression. Insomnia, stress, anxieties and sedentary lifestyle can also cause cancer fatigue.
Identifying Signs of Cancer Fatigue
It is important to keep a note of the warning signs that indicate cancer fatigue. Lack of energy, tired eyes and legs, stiffness in the shoulders and whole-body tiredness, lack of motivation, anxiety, sleepiness, and impatience are the most common signs of cancer fatigue. Notifying the Oncologist about these symptoms will help in assessing the condition and check for any hidden signs of infection or any other problem such as anaemia.

Managing Cancer Fatigue
Since these symptoms are not normal, the best way to manage is to treat its underlying cause. While blood tests will help in diagnosing certain causes of cancer fatigue like hypothyroidism or low haemoglobin, for others, making lifestyle changes can help. It is important to eat healthy, exercise, and stay active. If the patients are persistently fatigued, it will result in feeling exhausted, unable to concentrate and think clearly. Check for signs of continuous emotional distress, pain or nausea in the everyday life and consult the corresponding doctor at the earliest. While there are no medications to treat fatigue, taking care of the problems triggering fatigue can help. Consulting clinicians for recommendations on exercising depending on the type of treatment the patient is undergoing, and any dietary changes to help the patient conserve energy is crucial. Practice breathing and stretching exercises to reduce fatigue and relax.

Ensuring daily food intake meets the required calorie intake can prove valuable. Eating protein rich food can help muscle mass, and repair body tissue, while keeping the body satiated for long hours. Drink fluids to avoid dehydration. Consultation with a dietician for additional vitamin supplements, if required.

Exercising can also reduce fatigue and will keep the body energised. Due to long hours of sitting or lying down, the body tends to become weak and lethargic. If not every day, exercising on alternate days and doing household chores and slow walking prepares the body to adapt itself to various types of activities. This will also help in keeping comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, obesity under control, thereby the body gets better sleep and good appetite. It must also be kept in mind that too much exercising can be harmful and can result in soreness or extreme exhaustion.

Few other easy ways to manage fatigue includes taking short breaks in between work to rest, keeping things organized to avoid getting distressed over small things, reduce straining of the body by continuously sitting or standing, completing the tasks at one’s own pace. Adapt healthy sleeping habits. Wear comfortable clothes and reduce stress-inducing jobs. Stay away from passive smoking. Plan and delegate tasks to work efficiently and reduce work-related stress. Set realistic expectations and pursue hobbies that do not require long hours of physical labour.
How long does cancer fatigue last?
Not every cancer patient experiences the same kind of fatigue. Some may feel fatigue on days of chemotherapy or radiation therapy while some feel chronically exhausted. Since it is unique for every patient, it depends on the type of treatment given, stage of cancer and overall health.
Cancer is a chronic illness that poses many challenges during its treatment and later. Cancer fatigue being one of them, it needs to be taken care of and must not be ignored to ensure healthy recovery and leading an improved quality of life. Taking small steps can keep the patients energized and fight fatigue better.

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