Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness that can keep you from doing things you normally do or want to do. Fatigue is very common among people receiving cancer treatments. Factors such as cancer itself, low blood counts, nutritional problems, anxiety and depression, sleep problems and medications can contribute to fatigue. Individuals with cancer have described fatigue as weakness; exhaustion; tiredness; a lack of energy; sleepiness; confusion; or impatience. Others have described fatigue as “just don’t feel like myself”.
Fatigue can affect the way you think as well as how you feel. You may need more sleep. You may have trouble paying attention when reading, watching television even talking with family members. You may find that you are not able to do all activities you did before cancer treatment. The cause of cancer treatment-related fatigue is not fully known. Problems like low blood count, sleep disruption, stress, along with other factors, may contribute to fatigue.
You may experience specific signs of fatigue such as:
There are many ways to manage your fatigue during treatment:
There are many ways to help cope with cancer-related fatigue. Everyone experiences fatigue and treatments differently. You many not feel tired while someone else does, or your fatigue may not last as long as someone else’s does. Here are some tips to help you cope with fatigue:
You may be advised to “take it easy” and “get plenty of rest”. Sometimes staying in bed over a long period of time can slow your body down and cause you to feel even more tired. Do not push yourself to do more than you can do. Ask your family and friends to help you with tasks you find difficult or taxing, like mowing the lawn or grocery shopping. It may be difficult for family members to understand if rest does not make your fatigue go away. Explaining that the fatigue you feel is different from the fatigue you had before treatment may help them understand.
If you experience the following symptoms you should report them to your nurse:
Resource: “Fight Fatigue: It Helps!”, Oncology Nursing Society, 1999.