For many people, feeling tired and lacking energy (fatigue) can be the most difficult symptom to manage. It can be very frustrating if other people don’t understand how you’re feeling.
Fatigue 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
- loss of weight and muscle tone
- anxiety or depression
- 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.
- Speak to an occupational therapist about ways to conserve energy.
- 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.
- Talk to your doctor if you often feel anxious or sad or if you are having trouble sleeping at night.
For more on this, see Fatigue and cancer or listen to the podcast below.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, and Director, Clinical Research in Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Amey Aurangabadkar, Radiologist, Illawarra Radiology Group, NSW; Clare Brophy, Consumer; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Wendy Cooper, Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, NSW Health Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Chloe Georgiou, Oncology Research Fellow, Australian Rare Cancer Portal, and Oncology Trials Fellow, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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