Fatigue can be a significant problem for individuals undergoing cancer treatment. This page contains information that will help you understand cancer-related fatigue and give you suggestions for managing fatigue in your daily life. If you need further information after reading this booklet or at any time, talk to your doctor, nurse or occupational therapist – they want to help!
Goals Of Fatigue Management
Health professionals at roswell Park Cancer institute (RPCI) have developed strategies to help you manage your cancer-related fatigue. These strategies stress the importance of using energy effectively and keeping regular schedules of sleep and rest. The goals of these strategies are to reduce your level of fatigue, to maximize your productivity, to help you maintain important activities in your daily life, and to help you adjust to limitations imposed by fatigue.
Ask you doctor about fatigue. There may be medical or treatment methods that could be helpful in managing your fatigue.
What Is Fatigue?
Fatigue is the feeling of being tired physically, mentally and emotionally. When you are fatigued, you have less energy to do the things you normally do, or want to do. Cancer- related fatigue is a severe type of fatigue that may be caused by cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. Unlike normal fatigue, cancer- related fatigue can be chronic, may not be relieved easily by rest or sleep, and could interfere with your ability to perform your usual activities independently.
What Can Cause Fatigue?
Fatigue is a common result of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and blood and/or marrow transplant treatments, due to the destruction of healthy cells in the body. Anemia – too few red blood cells to meet the body’s energy needs – also can cause fatigue. Anemia can be prevented or decreased by taking iron pills, vitamin B-12, folate or drugs that stimulate the production of red blood cells. These drugs may increase energy and activity levels. Your doctor will tell you if anemia is the cause of your fatigue, and whether taking any of these medications could benefit you.
Describing Cancer-Related Fatigue
People describe cancer-related fatigue in the following ways:
Ways To Manage Fatigue/Get The Most Out Of Your Day!
Maintain Good Nutrition
Eating a proper diet that provides proper nutrition is important in dealing with cancer-related fatigue. Because side effects of cancer treatments can make getting good nutrition more difficult, try some of these suggestions:
If you need further assistance with planning meals or getting needed nutrition, please speak with your doctor who may refer you for a nutritional consultation.
Decide What Is Necessary
Choosing the really important activities is essential to conserving energy. Decide which activities you must do today, and those that can wait or be delegated to family and friends. It is important to set realistic, highly-achievable goals for each day or for part of the day. By doing so, you can feel good about yourself and conserve your energy.
Try to follow some of these tips when deciding which activities are necessary:
Plan Your Day
Plan activities for the time of the day when you tend to have more energy. This allows you to more fully enjoy these important activities. Plan ahead for rest periods between activities to minimize the amount of fatigue you acquire throughout the day.
Here are some tips:
Conserve Your Energy
You can control how and when you will use your limited energy. By following the suggestions mentioned in this booklet, you will be on your way.
Here are some more helpful suggestions:
Plan Regular Exercise
Plan an exercise to do everyday despite the fatigue. Studies have shown exercise to be a helpful way to fight fatigue and increase the amount of energy we have. You should exercise even when you don’t feel like it; even if it is only for a few minutes at a time.
Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. When given the oK by your doctor, try some of these suggestions:
If your fatigue is more severe and these activities are impossible, try getting dressed and walking around the house. The important thing is to move about as much as you can, even if it is just a little.
Use Restorative Activities
Restorative activities help rest your mind, boost your spirits and improve your sense of well- being. Activities such as those listed below can decrease stress and assist in distracting you from thinking about your fatigue.
Stress relieving activities
Ways To Manage Fatigue Through Rest And Sleep
In addition to getting the most out of your day through good nutrition, doing only what is necessary, exercising, planning and using restorative activities, you have to rest.
The following tips promote rest and sleep:
1. Fatigue is the most distressing symptom associated with cancer and its treatment. (Network National Comprehensive Cancer of the American Cancer Society)
2. Fatigue occurs in 78%-96% of people with cancer, particularly in individuals actively undergoing treatment.
(Cancer Nursing 14 (4): 188- 199, 1991) (Seminars in Hematology 34 (3 supplement 2): 4-12, 1997) (National Cancer Institute Cancer Web http: //www.graylab.ac.uk/cancernet)
3. Cancer related-fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. (NCCN of the American Cancer Society)
4. 30%-75% of cancer survivors have reported fatigue continuing for months or years after completing active treatment (NCCN of the American Cancer Society)
5. Cancer-related fatigue can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming. Rest does not always relieve fatigue. (Oncology Nursing Society, 1997; Wake up to Cancer Fatigue)
6. Fatigue can affect many aspects of daily life. It can affect mood and emotions. (Oncology Nursing Society, 1997: Wake up to Cancer Fatigue)