Cancer Fatigue

Cancer fatigue is when you feel very weak and exhausted during cancer treatment. You may struggle to complete daily tasks. Fatigue can last for weeks or even years.

  • Causes

    Cancer and the side effects of treatment cause this condition. If your body is already weakened by cancer when treatment begins, then it is even more difficult to handle the side effects.


    These conditions are caused by cancer or cancer treatment and can add to fatigue:

    • Anemia—due to
      chemotherapy, which can kill red blood cells and affect the blood-forming cells in bone marrow

    • Poor nutrition and
      dehydration—due to loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
    • Lack of oxygen—due to fewer red blood cells, which carry oxygen

    • Hormonal changes—due to hormonal therapies, side effects of treatment, or type of cancer, such as
      thyroid cancer

    • Other factors:

      • Lack of sleep
      • Depression
      • Stress
      • Pain
      • Side effects of medicines

  • Definition

    Cancer fatigue is when you feel very weak and exhausted during cancer treatment. You may struggle to complete daily tasks. Fatigue can last for weeks or even years.

    Chemotherapy Through Cardiovascular System
    Chemotherapy
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  • Diagnosis


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and do a physical exam. You may be asked:

    • Have your symptoms been worsening? When do your symptoms appear and how long do they last?
    • What medications are you taking?
    • How often do you sleep and for how long?
    • What are you eating?
    • What makes you feel better? Worse?
    • Have you been depressed?
    • How has your work status and financial condition been affected by cancer?
    • What kind of support system do you have?

    Your doctor may also use a questionnaire to assess your fatigue.

  • Prevention

    Cancer fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer. Because there are so many causes of cancer fatigue, there may not be a way to prevent it. But, there may be ways to reduce it. Talk to your doctor. Also talk to your family and friends to help you cope with your condition.

  • Risk Factors


    These factors increase your chance of developing cancer fatigue:


    • Undergoing cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy,
      radiation, biologic response modifier therapy)
    • Worsening of cancer
    • Having a pre-existing condition (such as poor nutrition, breathing impairment)
    • Having a history of depression or having family members with depression

    Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.

  • Symptoms


    If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to cancer fatigue. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

    • Extreme fatigue that is far worse than ordinary fatigue and that is not relieved by sleep
    • No energy to do basic tasks, such as cooking dinner, making the bed, or answering the door
    • Trouble concentrating and remembering
    • Dizziness
    • Heaviness of arms and legs
    • Poor balance
    • Shortness of breath
    • Impatience, irritability

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following: