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Cancer Health Center

Coping With Cancer-Related Fatigue

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What Else Contributes to Cancer-Related Fatigue? continued...

Cancer treatments, specifically chemotherapy, can decrease the number of red blood cells, causing anemia. Red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body, so when tissues don't get enough oxygen, you can feel fatigue. 

Some drugs used to treat side effects such as nausea, pain, depression, anxiety, and seizures can cause fatigue.

Research shows that chronic, severe pain also plays a role in fatigue.

Stress can worsen feelings of fatigue. Stress can result from dealing with the disease and the "unknowns," as well as from worrying about daily accomplishments or trying to meet the expectations of others.

Fatigue may occur when you try to maintain your normal daily routine and activities during treatments. Modifying your schedule and activities can help conserve energy.

Depression and fatigue often go hand-in-hand. 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, are preoccupied with feeling worthless and useless, you may need treatment for depression.

How Can I Fight Fatigue?

The best way to combat fatigue is to treat the underlying medical cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause is often unknown, or there may be multiple causes.

Causes of fatigue must be managed on an individual basis. For example, there are treatments that may improve fatigue caused by an under-active thyroid or anemia. The following guidelines may help you combat fatigue.

Assessment of Fatigue

Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.

Be alert to your personal warning signs of fatigue. Signs may include whole-body tiredness unrelieved by sleep, decreased energy or a lack of energy, mental and emotional exhaustion, inability to concentrate, weakness, or malaise.

Conserving Energy to Fight Fatigue

There are several ways to combat fatigue by conserving your energy. Here are some suggestions:

Plan ahead and organize your work

  • Change storage of items to reduce trips or reaching.
  • Delegate tasks when needed.
  • Combine activities and simplify details.

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