Most of the treatments for fatigue in cancer patients are for treating symptoms and providing emotional support because the causes of fatigue that are specifically related to cancer have not been determined. Some of these symptom-related treatments may include adjusting the dosages of pain medications, administering red blood celltransfusions or bloodcellgrowth factors, dietsupplementation with iron and vitamins, and antidepressants or psychostimulants.
Routine cancer screening can save lives. It can also cause serious harm.
This is the "double-edged sword" of cancer screening, says Otis Webb Brawley, MD, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.
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Fatigue in patients who have depression may be treated with antidepressant or psychostimulant drugs. Psychostimulants may help some patients have more energy and a better mood, and may help them think and concentrate. The use of psychostimulants for treating fatigue is still under study. The doctor may prescribe low doses of a psychostimulant to be used for a short time in advanced cancer patients with severe fatigue.
Psychostimulants have side effects, especially with long-term use. Different psychostimulants have different side effects. Patients who have heart problems or are taking anticancer drugs that affect the heart may have serious side effects from psychostimulants. These drugs have boxed warnings on the label about their risks. It is important to talk with a doctor about the effects these drugs may have and use them only under a doctor's care. Some of the possible side effects include the following:
Treatment for fatigue that is related to anemia may include red blood cell transfusions. Transfusions are an effective treatment for anemia; however possible side effects include infection, immediate transfusion reaction, graft-versus-host disease, and changes in immunity.
Treatment for anemia-related fatigue in patients undergoing chemotherapy may also include drugs, such as epoetin alfa, that cause the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. This type of drug may shorten survival time, increase the risk of serious heart problems, and cause some tumors to grow faster. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of these drugs with their doctors.
Moderate activity for 3 to 5 hours a week may help cancer-related fatigue. Choosing a type of exercise that will be enjoyed makes an exercise plan more likely to be followed. The health care team can help with planning 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 active cancer treatment.
People with cancer who exercise may have more physical energy, improved appetite, improved ability to function, improved quality of life, improved outlook, improved sense of well-being, enhanced sense of commitment, and improved ability to meet the challenges of cancer and cancer treatment. Findings from a study of breast cancersurvivors suggest that patients may be able to lessen fatigue and pain and function better in daily activities if they take part in moderate to vigorous recreational sports after cancer treatment.