Fatigue, or feeling very tired and lacking energy for daily activities, is a common physical side effect of cancer and its treatment. Fatigue is different from tiredness, as it doesn’t always go away with rest or sleep.

Now that treatment is over, you may think you should be full of energy, but often this isn’t the case. If you were unable to be active during treatment, you may have experienced a loss of muscle strength and fitness. This could contribute to your fatigue.

Many people say that fatigue has a big impact on their quality of life in the first year after treatment. Most people find that their energy returns 6–12 months after finishing treatment. However, some people lack energy for years after treatment and their energy levels may never fully recover.

Many survivors worry fatigue is a sign that the cancer has come back or that it never really went away. This is usually not true.

Learn more about:

Listen to our podcast on Managing Cancer Fatigue

Symptoms of fatigue

Signs of fatigue include:

  • lack of energy – you may want to stay in bed all day
  • difficulty sleeping – see Sleep disturbance
  • finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • difficulty completing tasks, especially in the afternoon, when energy levels can be unexpectedly low
  • feeling anxious or depressed, particularly if fatigue persists
  • muscle weakness – you may find it hard to walk or climb stairs
  • reduced mobility and loss of muscle strength (weakness)
  • breathlessness after light activity, such as making the bed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • finding it hard to think clearly or make decisions
  • having little or no interest in sex (low libido).

Many cancer survivors don’t tell their doctor about fatigue because they think that nothing can be done about it. However, your treatment team may be able to help. For example, your fatigue may be caused by a low red blood cell count (anaemia), an under active thyroid gland, depression or the side effects of drugs, which your doctor may be able to address. You may also find the following tips helpful.

How to manage fatigue

  • Set small, manageable goals – Focus on doing a little bit each day rather than a lot all at once.
  • Ask for, and accept, offers of help – Family and friends can help with school pick-ups, shopping or mowing the lawn.
  • Plan your day – Make a task list and do the most important activities when you have the most energy.
  • Take it slow – Work at your own pace and take regular breaks. Leave plenty of time to get to appointments.
  • Exercise regularly – Light to moderate exercise can boost energy levels and reduce fatigue.
  • Make time to relax – Try activities like walking on the beach, spending time in the garden or listening to music.
  • Adapt your play – If you have children, sit down to Try activities like reading, board games, puzzles and drawing.
  • Be realistic – Don’t expect to be able to instantly do everything you used to do. Your body is still recovering and it will take time for your energy levels to return.
  • Say no – Don’t feel pressured to do things that you don’t feel like doing. If you have trouble saying no, ask someone to do it for you.
  • Stop smoking – Smoking reduces your energy. If you smoke, consider quitting.
  • Take it easy – Sit down to talk on the phone or do light chores. Do your shopping online. Talk to an occupational therapist for more tips on reducing fatigue in specific daily activities.
  • Eat nutritious foods – Aim to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Seek help – Talk to your GP if your fatigue is caused by depression

Click on the icon below to download a fact sheet on fatigue and cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Programs and support for people who have finished treatment

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors

Cancer information

Learn more about how and why fatigue is related to cancer, and how to manage it

Staying healthy after treatment
Lifestyle changes that can help keep you in good health

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends