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Cancer-Related Fatigue

What Causes Cancer-Related Fatigue? continued...

Other factors that may contribute to cancer-related fatigue include:

  • Tumor-induced hypermetabolic state. Cancer cells compete with normal cells for nutrients, often at the expense of the normal cells' growth. In addition to fatigue, weight loss and decreased appetite are common effects of this condition.
  • Decreased nutrition from the side effects of treatments (such as nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, taste changes, heartburn, or diarrhea) can cause fatigue.
  • Anemia. Cancer treatments can cause reduced blood counts, which may lead to anemia, a blood disorder that occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is a substance in the red blood cells that enables the blood to transport oxygen through the body. When the blood can't transport enough oxygen to the body, fatigue can result.
  • Hypothyroidism. If the thyroid gland is under-active (hypothyroidism), metabolism may slow down so that the body does not burn food fast enough to provide adequate energy. This is a common condition in general, but may happen after radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in the neck or some targeted therapies. Symptoms include feeling cold and unexplained weight gain, in addition to severe fatigue.
  • Medications. Medications used to treat side effects such as nausea, pain, depression, anxiety, and seizures, can cause fatigue.
  • Pain. Research shows that chronic, severe pain increases fatigue.
  • Stress. 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.
  • Overworking yourself. Fatigue may result when patients try to maintain their normal daily routines and activities during treatments. Modification may be necessary in order to conserve energy.
  • Depression. 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, then you may need treatment for depression.
  • Immobility can reduce endurance and decondition muscles.
  • Hormonal changes, a side effect of cancer treatment or pain medication, can cause fatigue.
  • Medications for other illnesses, and the illnesses themselves, may cause fatigue. A classic example are blood pressure medications.

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