- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
Feeling very tired and lacking energy (fatigue) for day-to-day activities is the most common side effect of radiation therapy to any area of the body. During treatment, your body uses a lot of energy dealing with the effects of radiation on normal cells. Fatigue can also be caused by travelling to daily treatment sessions and other appointments.
Fatigue usually builds up slowly during the course of treatment, particularly towards the end, and may last for some weeks or months after treatment finishes. Many people find that they cannot do as much as they normally would, but others are able to continue their usual activities.
How to manage fatigue
- Take regular breaks.
- Plan activities for the time of day when you tend to feel more energetic.
- Ask family and friends for help (e.g. with shopping, housework and driving).
- Take a few weeks off work during or after treatment, reduce your hours, or work from home. Discuss your situation with your employer.
- Do some regular exercise, such as walking. This can boost your energy levels and make you feel less tired. Ask your treatment team about what type of exercise is suitable for you.
- Limit caffeinated drinks, such as cola, coffee and tea. While caffeine may give a burst of energy, it can make you feel jittery and irritable, and cause insomnia and dehydration.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. If you smoke, try to quit. For information and support, talk to your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit iCanQuit.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and don’t skip meals.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Prof June Corry, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Senior Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast, Hervey Bay Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Jane Freeman, Accredited Practising Dietitian (Cancer specialist), Canutrition, NSW; Sinead Hanley, Consumer; David Jolly, Senior Medical Physicist, Icon Cancer Centre Richmond, VIC; Christine Kitto, Consumer; A/Prof Grace Kong, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Sasha Senthi, Radiation Oncologist, The Alfred Hospital and Monash University, VIC; John Spurr, Consumer; Chris Twyford, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Radiation Oncology, Cancer Rapid Assessment Unit and Outpatients, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Gabrielle Vigar, Nurse Unit Manager, Radiation Oncology/Cancer Outpatients, Cancer Program, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA.
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