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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer-Related Fatigue

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You’re likely to have some fatigue while you're getting treated for breast cancer. That's one of the most common side effects of the disease and treatments for it.

Fatigue isn’t the same as being tired. Tiredness happens to everyone, and a good night's sleep usually re-energizes you.

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Fatigue is a daily lack of energy or whole-body tiredness that doesn’t go away, even with good sleep. It can keep you from doing normal, daily things, and it affects your quality of life. Sometimes it's "acute," meaning it lasts a month or less. In other cases it's "chronic" and lasts up to 6 months or longer. Usually, it comes on suddenly, and may continue after you're done with your treatment.

Here are some possible reasons for it, along with tips to help you get some of your energy back.

Causes of Cancer-Related Fatigue

The disease itself can be the problem. Tumor cells steal calories and nutrients from normal cells, and that leads to tiredness that won't seem to let up.

Treatments can cause fatigue, too:

Chemotherapy. Any chemo drug can cause you to have fatigue. It lasts for a few days in some people, while others say they have it throughout treatment or even afterward.

Radiationcan give you fatigue that tends to get worse over time. It usually lasts 3 to 4 weeks after your treatment stops, but it can continue for up to 3 months.

Hormone therapy deprives the body of estrogen, and that can lead to fatigue that may last throughout your treatment or longer.

Bone marrow transplant. This aggressive form of treatment can give you a daily lack of energy that lasts up to 1 year.

Targeted therapy. High amounts of these medications can lead to long-lasting fatigue.

Combination therapy. Getting more than one cancer treatment at the same time or one after the other also increases your chances of feeling listless.

Surgery. Everyone recovers from surgery at different rates. This can also cause some daily exhaustion.

Other Possible Culprits

Cancer treatments can cause anemia, a blood disorder where your body's cells don’t get the oxygen they need. 

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