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Fatigue (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatments for Fatigue

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Treatment of fatigue may include teaching the patient ways to increase energy and cope with fatigue in daily life.

Exercise

Exercise (including walking) may help people with cancer feel better and have more energy. The effect of exercise on fatigue in cancer patients is being studied. One study reported that breast cancer survivors who took part in enjoyable physical activity had less fatigue and pain and were better able to take part in daily activities. In clinical trials, some patients reported the following benefits from exercise:

  • More physical energy.
  • Better appetite.
  • More able to do the normal activities of daily living.
  • Better quality of life.
  • More satisfaction with life.
  • A greater sense of well-being.
  • More able to meet the demands of cancer and cancer treatment.

Moderate activity for 3 to 5 hours a week may help cancer-related fatigue. You are more likely to follow an exercise plan if you choose a type of exercise that you enjoy. The health care team can help you plan the best time and place for exercise and how often to exercise. Patients may need to start with light activity for short periods of time and build up to more exercise little by little. Studies have shown that exercise can be safely done during and after cancer treatment.

Mind and body exercises such as qigong, tai chi, and yoga may help relieve fatigue. These exercises combine activities like movement, stretching, balance, and controlled breathing with spiritual activity such as meditation.

A schedule of activity and rest

Changes in daily routine make the body use more energy. A regular routine can improve sleep and help the patient have more energy to be active during the day. A program of regular times for activity and rest help to make the most of a patient's energy. A health care professional can help patients plan an exercise program and decide which activities are the most important to them.

The following sleep habits may help decrease fatigue:

  • Lying in bed for sleep only.
  • Taking naps for no longer than one hour.
  • Avoiding noise (like television and radio) during sleep.

Cancer patients should not try to do too much. Health professionals have information about support services to help with daily activities and responsibilities.

Talk therapy

Therapists use talk therapy (counseling) to treat certain emotional or behavioral disorders. This kind of therapy helps patients change how they think and feel about certain things. Talk therapy may help decrease a cancer patient's fatigue by working on cancer-related factors that make fatigue worse, such as:

  • Stress from coping with cancer.
  • Fear that the cancer may come back.
  • Feeling hopeless about fatigue.
  • Lack of social support.
  • A pattern of sleep and activity that changes from day to day.
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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