Fatigue, or feeling extremely tired, is the most common complaint during the first year after cancer treatment ends. Cancer-related fatigue is different from everyday fatigue. Rest or sleep does not help it. For some survivors, fatigue is mild and temporary, but for others it can last for months after treatment and makes going about daily activities difficult.
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Many Possible Causes
Doctors do not know the exact cause of treatment-related fatigue, but many factors may contribute. The causes seem to be different for people who are undergoing treatment than for those who have finished treatment.
Fatigue during treatment can be caused by cancer therapy. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other therapies may cause fatigue. Other problems such as anemia (having too few red blood cells), stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and depression may be linked to this type of fatigue. Researchers are still learning about what may cause fatigue to linger after treatment ends.
What Can You Do About Fatigue?
What can you do about fatigue? The best thing you can do for fatigue is talk to your doctor or health care professionals about it so you can get the help you need to deal with it. Ask them about the medications you are taking and if they could affect your energy level. Talk to them about how to manage any pain, nausea, or depression you may have. They may also be able to suggest medications or nutritional supplements that may help lessen your fatigue.
Here are some other ways you can manage or cope with your fatigue.
- Plan your day so that you balance rest and activity. Be active at the time of day when you feel most alert and energetic. Take short breaks or naps throughout the day, rather than one long rest period. Too much rest can decrease your energy level.
- Save your energy. For example, change the way you do things. Sit on a stool while you cook or do dishes. Take rest breaks between activities. Decide which activities are more important and which ones aren't. Try to let go of things that don't matter as much now.
- Let others help you. Don't be afraid to ask your family or friends to help with the things you find tiring or hard to do. This may be a task such as preparing meals, doing housework, or running errands.
- Think about joining a support group. Talking about your feelings with others who have had the same problem may help you find new ways to cope.