For many people, extreme or constant tiredness (fatigue) can be a major problem, particularly as the cancer advances. You may find feeling fatigued distressing and frustrating. Some people say the fatigue is worse than any pain or nausea they’ve experienced.

Fatigue can be caused by a range of things, such as:

  • anxiety or depression
  • poor sleep
  • infection
  • progression of the cancer
  • anaemia (low red blood cell levels)
  • cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • loss of weight and muscle tone
  • drugs such as analgesics, antidepressants and sedatives.

Tell the doctor or nurse if you think you are becoming weaker or more fatigued. If anaemia is making the fatigue worse, it can be managed. You may be referred to an occupational therapist who can teach you techniques for conserving your energy.

Helpful tips for dealing with fatigue

  • Plan activities for the time of day when you feel less tired, and include rest times.
  • Do regular gentle activities, such as walking to the letterbox, doing stretches or getting out of bed for meals.
  • Avoid stress where possible – relaxation techniques or meditation can help.
  • Have several short naps rather than one long rest period.
  • Limit visitors if you find they are tiring you.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol can cause tiredness and energy loss.
  • Use Meals on Wheels or other home delivery meal companies that bring prepared food to you.

This information was last reviewed in December 2016
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