- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing side effects
- Feeling tired and lacking energy
Feeling tired and lacking energy
Many people feel very tired, weak, drained and become quickly worn out while they are having chemotherapy. This is called fatigue and it is the most common side effect of chemotherapy.
If you develop fatigue you may also experience muscle aches and pains, have difficulty concentrating and find it difficult to do daily activities.
Learn more about:
How long with fatigue last?
Fatigue can affect you suddenly and it doesn’t always go away with rest or sleep. For some people, it may be hard to do everyday things, creating feelings of frustration and isolation.
Fatigue caused by chemotherapy may last for some weeks or months after a treatment cycle ends. Many people find that their energy levels return to normal within 6–12 months of treatment ending.
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. Your treatment team may be able to suggest 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 sleeping difficulties as these can increase fatigue. Relaxation or meditation exercises may help improve the quality of your sleep or boost your energy levels. Listen to our Finding Calm During Cancer podcast or call 13 11 20 to request CDs.
- 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. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
I had no idea that I would still be feeling tired 5 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
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Prof Timothy Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Graham Borgas, Consumer: Dr Joanna Dewar, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Professor, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Angela Kritikos, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Dietetic Department, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Kate Mahon, Director of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Marissa Ryan, Acting Consultant Pharmacist (Cancer Services), Pharmacy Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment