For many people with cancer of unknown primary (CUP), extreme and constant tiredness (fatigue) can be the most difficult symptom to manage. It can be very distressing both for the person experiencing it and for those around them.
Tiredness can be caused by a range of things, such as:
- the cancer itself or cancer treatments
- low levels of red blood cells (anaemia) or high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia)
- drugs such as pain medicines, antidepressants and sedatives
- poor nutrition causing loss of weight and muscle tone
- anxiety or low mood
- lack of sleep
- poorly managed pain.
Tips for managing fatigue
- Pace yourself. Spread your activities throughout the day with rest periods in between.
- Try to do gentle exercise. Research shows this reduces tiredness and preserves muscle strength. Even walking to the letterbox or getting up for meals can help.
- Have a short nap of no more than 30 minutes during the day. This can refresh you without making it hard to sleep well at night.
- Speak to an occupational therapist about ways to conserve energy.
- Talk to your doctor if you often feel anxious or sad or if you are having trouble sleeping at night.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Christine Bradfield, Consumer; Cindy Bryant, Consumer; Dr Maria Cigolini, Head, Department of Palliative Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Clinical Lecturer, The University of Sydney, NSW; Mary Duffy, Advanced Practice Nurse and Nurse Coordinator, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Siobhan O’Neill, Medical Oncologist, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre, NSW; Prof Penelope Schofield, Department of Psychological Sciences and the Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology, and Head, Behavioural Science in Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Frank Stoss, Consumer.
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