Cancer Fatigue: How To Cope

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K. on May 24, 2022.

Assessing Your Cancer Fatigue

Fatigue is a frequent side effect of cancer and its treatments, but there are ways of dealing with it.

If you have cancer, hold a one-week journal and figure out what time of day you are most tired or have the most energy. Have a list of what you believe may be contributing factors.

Be aware of your own particular exhaustion warning signs. Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Eyes or legs that are tired.
  • Tiredness that affects the whole body.
  • Shoulders that are stiff.
  • Lack of energy or a decrease in energy levels.
  • The inability to focus.
  • Weakness or malaise.
  • Boredom or a lack of inspiration.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Increased irritability or impatience.
  • Anxiety or nervousness.

Fight Cancer Fatigue With Energy Conservation

Plan:

  • To save time and effort, reorganise your space to reduce trips and reaching.
  • When necessary, delegate tasks.
  • Combine tasks and exclude unnecessary tasks.

Rest:

  • Job and rest hours should be balanced.
  • Rest often and for brief periods of time before becoming exhausted.

Slow down:

  • It is preferable to move at a moderate speed rather than rushing through tasks.
  • Reduce strains that occur suddenly or over an extended period of time.
  • Sitting and standing can be alternated.
  • Focused breathing will help you relax while you're feeling stressed or tired.

Ensure good body mechanics:

  • Use a chair with strong back support while seated.
  • Sit up straight with your head back with your back straight.
  • Adjust the work level enough that you aren't bent over.
  • When lifting something, bend your legs and rise with your leg muscles rather than your back. Bending over at the hip with the legs upright can be unsafe.
  • Carry several small loads rather than a single big one, or use a cart.

Avoid overexertion and overreaching:

  • Make use of tools with long handles.
  • Objects should be kept at a lower level.

Examine your surroundings:

  • Temperature extremes should be avoided.
  • Remove all smoke or noxious gases.
  • Showers or baths that are too hot and too long.

Prioritise your list:

  • Determine the tasks are the most essential to you and which can be deferred.
  • Focus your energy on the most critical tasks.

Eating Well

Cancer fatigue is often exacerbated by a lack of nutrition or a lack of the correct nutrients. Healthy diet will make you feel healthier and give you more energy. Although you will not always be able to eat perfectly, set the following objectives for yourself:

  • Meet your basic calorie needs. Find out how much calories you need per day from your doctor or any member of your cancer care team.
  • Eat plenty of protein. Protein helps to restore and replace weakened (and ageing) body tissue. Protein can make up approximately 10% and 35% of the overall daily calories, although this varies depending on a variety of variables. If you've had cancer surgery or other procedures, your body may need more protein to recover and combat infection. Consult a doctor or a dietitian on your specific nutritional needs. Foods from the dairy category (8 oz. milk = 8 g protein) and meats (meat, fish, or poultry = 7 g protein per ounce) are the greatest sources of protein.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration should be avoided by drinking at least 8 cups of fluid a day. (This equates to around 2 litres.) If you live in a hot, dry environment, you will need to drink more water. Inquire with a member of your medical personnel about the basic fluid requirements. Juice, tea, broth, milkshakes, jelly, and other liquids are examples of fluids. Of necessity, water would suffice. If you experience drug side effects like vomiting or diarrhoea, you'll need to drink additional fluids.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamins. If you're not certain you're having enough nutrients, talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement. A multivitamin that contains at least 100 percent of the minimum daily allowances (RDA) for most nutrients is a good one. Vitamin supplements do not contain calories, which are required for the production of energy. As a result, vitamins cannot replace a healthy diet. Before consuming vitamins or other drugs, see a doctor or nurse, as you will on other prescriptions.
  • Make an appointment with a dietitian. A licenced dietitian may provide advice on how to cope with eating disorders that may be interfering with good nutrition (such as early feeling of fullness, nausea, swallowing difficulty, or taste changes). A dietitian may also advise on how to get the most calories and nutrients from smaller portions of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks, and other commercial supplements or food additives).

Exercise and Cancer Fatigue

Reduced physical activity as a consequence of cancer or cancer treatment may cause exhaustion and a loss of energy. Particularly healthy athletes who are required to take long stretches of time in bed or seated in chairs experience fear, exhaustion, weakening, fatigue, and nausea, according to scientists.

Daily, moderate workout will make you feel less down, remain healthy, and have more energy. It is also possible to exercise when undergoing cancer treatment.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Before starting a workout regimen, consult your doctor.
  • A successful fitness programme should begin slowly to enable the body to adapt.
  • Maintain a daily workout routine. At least three days a week, have some exercise.
  • You can never be tired, rigid, or drained when doing the correct kind of workout. You are overdoing it if you notice soreness, pain, nausea, or shortness of breath as a consequence of the workout.
  • The majority of workouts are healthy as long as you workout carefully and don't overdo it. Swimming, vigorous exercise, meditation, indoor stationary riding, and low intensity aerobics are among the healthier and most productive sports (taught by a certified instructor). If performed right, these exercises pose little risk of injuries and benefit the whole body.

When To Seek Help

Despite the fact that cancer fatigue is a normal and sometimes anticipated side effect of cancer and its therapies, you can speak with your doctor about your concerns. Fatigue may also be a sign of an ongoing medical condition. Treatments for any of the triggers of fatigue may be available at other times.

Finally, there might be more specific suggestions for dealing with the exhaustion that are more tailored to your case.

Warning Signs

If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact the doctor or nurse right away:

  • Shortness of breath on minimal exertion
  • Uncontrollable pain
  • Inability to manage treatment-related side effects (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite).
  • Anxiety or nervousness that is uncontrollable.
  • Depression

Source:

Referenced on 27/4/2021

  1. Bower JE. (2014). Cancer-related fatigue: Mechanisms, risk factors, and treatments.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4664449/
  2. Fatigue (PDQ) – patient version. (2019).
    cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/fatigue/fatigue-pdq
  3. Jang A, et al. (2020). The effects of acupuncture on cancer-related fatigue: Updated systematic review and meta-analysis.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7533944/
  4. Johns SA, et al. (2014). Randomized controlled pilot study of mindfulness-based stress reduction for persistently fatigued cancer survivors.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331267/
  5. Kessels E, et al. (2018). The effect of exercise on cancer-related fatigue in cancer survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810532/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/cancer-related-fatigue 

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