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Prostate Cancer: Dealing with Fatigue

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What Other Factors Contribute to Fatigue?

Several other factors could contribute to fatigue, including:

  • Tumor cells compete for nutrients, often at the expense of the normal cells' growth.
  • Decreased nutrition from the side effects of treatments (such as nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, taste changes, heartburn, or diarrhea) can also cause fatigue.
  • Cancer treatments, specifically chemotherapy, can cause reduced blood counts, which may lead to anemia, a blood disorder that occurs when the blood cannot adequately transport oxygen through the body. When tissues don't get enough oxygen, fatigue can result.
  • Medicines used to treat side effects such as nausea, pain, depression, anxiety, and seizures can also cause fatigue.
  • Research shows that chronic, severe pain increases fatigue.
  • Stress can worsen feelings of fatigue. Stress can result from dealing with the disease and the "unknowns," as well as from worrying about daily tasks or trying to meet others' needs.
  • Fatigue may result when you try to maintain your normal daily routines and activities during treatments. Modifying your schedule and activities can help conserve energy.
  • 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, or are preoccupied with feeling worthless and useless, you may need treatment for depression.

What Can I Do to Combat Fatigue?

The best way to combat fatigue is to treat the underlying medical cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause is often unknown, or there may be multiple causes.

Some treatments may help improve fatigue caused by an underactive thyroid or anemia. Other causes of fatigue must be managed on an individual basis. You can use the following to help combat fatigue:

Assessment. Evaluate your level of energy. Think of your personal energy stores as a "bank." Deposits and withdrawals have to be made over the course of the day or the week to balance the amount of energy you store and the amount you need each day. Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors. Be alert to your personal warning signs of fatigue. These may include tired eyes, tired legs, whole-body tiredness, stiff shoulders, decreased energy or a lack of energy, inability to concentrate, weakness or malaise, boredom or lack of motivation, sleepiness, increased irritability, nervousness, anxiety, or impatience.

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