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


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.

Self-care for fatigue

Fatigue is often a short-term side effect of treatment, but in some patients it becomes chronic (continues as a long-term condition). Managing chronic fatigue includes adjusting to life with fatigue. Learning the facts about cancer-related fatigue may help you cope with it better and improve quality of life. For example, some patients in treatment worry that having fatigue means the treatment is not working. Anxiety over this can make fatigue even worse. Some patients may feel that reporting fatigue is complaining. Knowing that fatigue is a normal side effect that should be reported and treated may make it easier to manage.

Working with the health care team to learn about the following may help patients cope with fatigue:

  • How to cope with fatigue as a normal side effect of treatment.
  • The possible medical causes of fatigue (not enough fluids, electrolyte imbalance, breathing problems, or anemia).
  • How patterns of rest and activity affect fatigue.
  • How to schedule important daily activities during times of less fatigue, and give up less important activities.
  • The kinds of activities that may help the patient feel more alert (walking, gardening, bird-watching).
  • The difference between fatigue and depression.
  • How to avoid or change situations that cause stress.
  • How to avoid or change activities that cause fatigue.
  • How to change the surroundings to help decrease fatigue.
  • Exercise programs that are right for the patient and decrease fatigue.
  • The importance of eating enough food and drinking enough fluids.
  • Physical therapy for patients who have nerve problems or muscle weakness.
  • Respiratory therapy for patients who have trouble breathing.
  • How to tell if treatments for fatigue are working.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 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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