Coping With Cancer: Causes and Management of Fatigue

Cancer sufferers often complain of fatigue as a side-effect of their disease and treatment.  But what causes this debilitating condition and how can it be managed?  Read on for more information.

What causes cancer-related fatigue?

Fatigue can be caused by many different factors related to your cancer including the following:

  • hormonal changes caused by the cancer itself
  • chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, and radiotherapy
  • anaemia
  • chronic pain resulting in lack of sleep
  • emotional issues, such as stress and depression
  • poor nutrition caused by loss of appetite and feelings of nausea
  • side effects of some medication
  • lack of exercise

How can you manage your fatigue?

Medical intervention and assistance

The way in which your fatigue is best-managed will depend on the cause.  For example, if the problem is caused by a medical condition such as anaemia, your doctor may suggest blood transfusions or medication to stimulate the production of more red cells by your bone marrow.  Similarly, if your problem is caused by lack of sleep due to chronic pain, pain-relieving drugs could help.  Lack of sleep and depression can also be tackled through the use of suitable prescription medication.

It's important to note here that all medication to be used in conjunction with cancer treating drug therapy must be prescribed by your medical team.

Self-help therapies

There are a number of things that you can try at home to relieve your fatigue.

It can be helpful to set aside some time during the day for short catnaps, which can sometimes 'recharge your batteries'.  You may find that you feel better at certain times of the day than at others.  Try to carry out important activities at the times when you know you will not be so affected by feelings of fatigue, and don't be afraid to ask others for help when you need it.

Pay attention to your diet and fluid intake; eating well and drinking plenty of water can help to keep your energy levels topped-up.  It can be best to avoid consuming too much caffeine, as the 'come down' after its energising effects wear off can leave you feeling even more fatigued.

Try to undertake some exercise each day to help keep your metabolism ticking over well and boost your energy levels.  If you can manage to get into the routine of exercising regularly, you'll find that this may help to prevent fatigue.

In conclusion

Although fatigue is a common side-effect of cancer and its treatment, there are steps that you can take to help tackle the problem.  If you find that feelings of fatigue are preventing you from carrying out your day-to-day activities, have a chat with your doctor or cancer management team.