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


    The doctor may prescribe low doses of a psychostimulant to be used for a short time in patients with advanced cancer who have severe fatigue. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these drugs.

    Certain drugs are being studied for fatigue related to cancer.

    The following drugs are being studied for fatigue related to cancer:

    • Bupropion is an antidepressant that is being studied to treat fatigue in patients with or without depression.
    • Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory drug being studied in patients with advanced cancer. In one clinical trial, patients who received dexamethasone reported less fatigue than the group that received a placebo. More trials are needed to study the link between inflammation and fatigue.

    Certain dietary supplements are being studied for fatigue related to cancer.

    The following dietary supplements are being studied for fatigue related to cancer:

    • L-carnitine is a supplement that helps the body make energy and lowers inflammation that may be linked to fatigue.
    • Ginseng is an herb used to treat fatigue which may be taken in capsules of ground ginseng root. In a clinical trial, cancer patients who were either in treatment or had finished treatment, received either ginseng or placebo. The group receiving ginseng had less fatigue than the placebo group.

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


    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.

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