Fatigue is a sense of tiredness that doesn't seem to go away, even with rest or sleep. It often happens along with other symptoms, such as pain or poor sleep. You may feel fatigued during cancer treatments, right after treatments, or even for months after treatment.
Even as your cancer treatments are working and you are getting better, you may feel exhausted. Feeling fatigued does not mean that your cancer is getting worse or that your treatment isn't working.
Symptoms such as pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and nausea can cause fatigue. Talk to your doctor about treatments for these symptoms. He or she will also be able to help you if your tiredness is from anemia, medicines you are taking, or other health problems.
Home treatment may help to relieve fatigue caused by cancer or the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If your doctor gives you instructions or medicines to treat fatigue, be sure to follow them.
If your doctor says you may exercise, you can begin to build your strength, energy, and fitness. Even moderate walking has been shown to improve body image, increase physical strength, and reduce anxiety and depression.footnote 1 For adults who have breast cancer or prostate cancer, aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, has been shown to ease fatigue during and after treatment.footnote 3
Fatigue from cancer treatment is often the hardest part of treatment for most people. It may affect your sense of well-being. Many people who have fatigue with cancer treatments report feeling anxious or depressed. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you are having a problem with these kinds of feelings. Your doctor may be able to help. There also are some things you can do at home to feel better.
If one or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment, contact your doctor:
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2012). Cancer-related fatigue. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, version 1. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp#site.
- Mitchell SA, Berger AM (2015). Fatigue. In VT DeVita Jr et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer Principles and Practices of Oncology, 10th ed., pp. 2041–2046. Philadelphia: Walters Kluwer.
- Cramp F, Byron-Daniel J. (2012). Exercise for the management of cancer-related fatigue in adults (review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11).
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