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Cancer-Related Fatigue

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What Else Contributes to Fatigue? continued...

If your thyroid gland is underactive, your metabolism may slow down so much that your body does not burn food fast enough to provide energy. This is a common condition in general, but it can also happen after radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in the neck.

Being less active and having problems moving around can lead to fatigue in older people. Younger people in treatment sometimes overexert themselves and bring on fatigue. Chronic, severe pain makes it worse.

Stress doesn't help. Fatigue often happens when patients try to keep their normal daily routines and activities during treatment. Changing your activities can help conserve energy.

Depression and fatigue often go hand in hand, but it may not be clear which started first. One way to sort this out is to try to understand your depressed feelings and how they affect your life. If you are depressed all the time, were depressed before your cancer diagnosis, or are preoccupied with feeling worthless and useless, you may need treatment for depression.

What Can I Do to Fight Fatigue?

The best way is to treat the cause. Unfortunately, you often won't know exactly what that is, or there may be many reasons for it. 

Talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to help you find some solutions. For example, some treatments may help improve fatigue caused by hypothyroidism or anemia

Other causes, like trying to do too much, must be managed on your own.

Figure out your level of energy. Keep a diary for one week to find the times of day when you are most fatigued and the times when you have the most energy. Note what you think may be reasons why.

Be alert to warning signs of fatigue:

  • Tired eyes
  • Tired legs
  • Whole body tiredness
  • Stiff shoulders
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weakness or malaise
  • Boredom or lack of motivation
  • Exhaustion, even after sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness, anxiety, or impatience

Conserve Your Energy

Plan ahead, and organize your work. Combine activities and simplify details. Delegate tasks when possible.

Pace yourself. A moderate pace is better than rushing through activities.

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