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    Cancer-Related Fatigue

    Exercise and Cancer Fatigue

    Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of cancer or cancer treatment, can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, weakness, fatigue, and nausea.

    Regular, moderate exercise can often decrease these feelings, help you stay active, and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising.

    Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

    • Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
    • A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
    • Keep a regular exercise schedule. Exercise at least three times a week.
    • The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff, or exhausted. If you experience soreness, stiffness, exhaustion, or feel out of breath as a result of your exercise, you are overdoing it.
    • Most exercises are safe, as long as you exercise with caution and don't overdo it. The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury and benefit your entire body.

    When to Call the Doctor About Cancer Fatigue

    Although cancer-related fatigue is a common, and often expected, side effect of cancer and its treatments, you should mention your concerns to your doctors. There are times when fatigue may be a clue to an underlying medical problem. Other times, there may be treatments to help control some of the causes of fatigue.

    Finally, there may be suggestions that are more specific to your situation that would help in combating your fatigue.

    Warning Signs

    Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have:

    • Increased shortness of breath with minimal exertion
    • Uncontrolled pain
    • Inability to control side effects from treatments (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite)
    • Uncontrollable anxiety or nervousness
    • Ongoing depression

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 26, 2014
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