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- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Feeling tired and lacking energy
Feeling tired and lacking energy
Feeling very tired and lacking energy (fatigue) is the most common side effect of chemotherapy. You may have muscle aches and pains, get worn out quickly, have difficulty concentrating or find it difficult to do daily activities. Fatigue can appear suddenly and it doesn’t always go away with rest or sleep.
Fatigue may last for some weeks or months after a treatment cycle ends. Energy levels usually improve over time. While fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy, it can also be a symptom of depression. For more information on depression, visit Beyond Blue and talk to your health care team.
For more on this, see Fatigue and cancer.
How to manage fatigue
- Allow your body to recover by taking regular breaks, resting or having a short sleep.
- Plan activities for the time of day when you tend to feel most energetic.
- Do some regular exercise, such as walking. Moderate intensity exercise can boost energy levels and make you feel less tired. Talk to your treatment team about suitable activities for you.
- Ask for, and accept, offers of support from family, friends and neighbours. They can help with shopping, driving, housework or gardening.
- If you have children, ask trusted family and friends to look after them during your chemotherapy sessions and to be on call in case you become unwell afterwards.
- Find ways to manage anxiety or trouble sleeping as these can increase fatigue. Relaxation or meditation exercises may help improve your sleep or give you more energy. Listen to our relaxation and meditation audio tracks.
- Talk to your doctor about trying acupuncture – some studies suggest this may help reduce physical tiredness after chemotherapy.
- Check with your doctor whether your fatigue is related to low levels of red blood cells (anaemia). Anaemia can be treated.
- Discuss the impact of the treatment with your employer. You may be able to take a few weeks off, reduce your hours or work from home.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and don’t skip meals. Limit your alcohol intake.
I had no idea that I would still be feeling tired five months after finishing treatment. I didn’t know how to make it better and I was scared that’s how it would be: that I wouldn’t go back to normal, that I would never go back to having energy again.Judy
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Clinical A/Prof Rosemary Harrup, Director, Cancer and Blood Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Queensland Health, QLD; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Stacey Burton, Consumer; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Andrew Greig, Consumer; Steve Higgs, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.
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