Cancer-related Fatigue

Table of Contents

Introduction

Cancer-related fatigue is a common symptom that affects many cancer patients. It is a feeling of extreme tiredness or exhaustion that does not improve with rest or sleep. Cancer-related fatigue can also cause mental and emotional exhaustion that affects the patient’s quality of life, including their ability to perform daily activities and complete treatment. It is not always easy to identify the cause of cancer-related fatigue, but it can be caused by the cancer itself or by the side effects of cancer treatment. Although there is no cure for cancer-related fatigue, there are several management strategies that can help patients to cope with this symptom.

How can I recognise cancer-related fatigue?

You can expect some of the following or a combination of them:

Feeling an overwhelming sense of extreme tiredness and a lack of energy that doesn’t improve even with rest or sleep.

Noticing a significant decrease in physical strength and stamina, which can make everyday activities more challenging than usual.

Experiencing difficulties concentrating, memory lapses, and a general sense of mental fuzziness or confusion.

Feeling a deep lack of interest or motivation in activities that were once enjoyable, often due to overwhelming fatigue.

Cancer-related fatigue can bring about emotional struggles such as sadness, irritability, anxiety, or even depression.

Experiencing troubles falling asleep, staying asleep, or having sleep that doesn’t leave you feeling refreshed, which can contribute to the fatigue you feel.

Coping Strategies

The following techniques can be actioned to manage the effects of fatigue on your day to day life. It is important to know that some of these will be more effective for you than others, so it is important to try different ones. Don’t be hard on yourself if they don’t work immediately, this is a process and being consistent with practicing will provide you with both short and long term results.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is essential for good mental health, and lack of sleep can worsen fatigue symptoms. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep routine that includes winding down before bed, avoiding electronics, and creating a relaxing sleep environment. For more detailed support, please see the sleep module.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can help manage the impact of cancer-related fatigue. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help provide the essential nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Avoiding or reducing the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods can also help manage anxiety symptoms.

Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation exercises can be an effective strategy to manage and improve fatigue due to low mood. When we experience low mood, we may feel physically and mentally exhausted, which can impact our daily activities and overall quality of life. Relaxation exercises can help alleviate symptoms of fatigue by inducing a state of deep relaxation and calming the mind. By practicing these techniques on a regular basis, we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels, leading to an overall improvement in mood.

Managing Emotional Distress

Relaxation exercises can be an effective strategy to manage and improve fatigue due to low mood. When we experience low mood, we may feel physically and mentally exhausted, which can impact our daily activities and overall quality of life. Relaxation exercises can help alleviate symptoms of fatigue by inducing a state of deep relaxation and calming the mind. By practicing these techniques on a regular basis, we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels, leading to an overall improvement in mood.

Medication Management

Medication management is an important aspect of addressing cancer-related fatigue. Manage potential medication side effects and consider adjustments to the treatment plan or medications to alleviate fatigue. Integrative therapies, like acupuncture or massage, can complement medication management and promote relaxation. Regular monitoring and open communication with your healthcare team are essential to evaluate the effectiveness of medications, address side effects, and ensure the best possible management of cancer-related fatigue.

Managing your pace

Managing your pace and prioritizing your tasks is a crucial step towards managing cancer-related fatigue. Moving at a steady, manageable pace can help you remain efficient without becoming overwhelmed or exhausted. When you’re feeling fatigued, it’s essential to be mindful of how much you’re trying to accomplish, so prioritizing your tasks can help you break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This way, you can focus on completing the most critical tasks when you have the most energy and motivation. Additionally, it’s important to schedule breaks and rest periods throughout the day to allow your body and mind to recharge.

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Regular Exercise

Exercise is a powerful tool for managing anxiety as it releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Regular exercise can also help reduce muscle tension, improve sleep quality, and increase self-confidence. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling.

Connect with Others

Social support can be a powerful tool to help manage your emotions. Connect with friends and family regularly, join a support group, or consider speaking with a mental health professional to discuss your concerns and develop a treatment plan.

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