What is Cancer Fatigue and How to Cope With It?

Dr Gunes Dr Hossami

Dr. Adem Günes & Dr. Abdulla El-Hossami

What is Cancer Fatigue and How to Cope With It?

Cancer fatigue is a common side effect that affects both physical and emotional wellbeing. It is often described as an overwhelming and persistent feeling of tiredness that is not relieved by rest.

Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. While conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can be effective, many patients seek natural ways to support their treatment and improve their outcomes. One promising approach is the ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent years.

Let’s understand what exactly is cancer fatigue, and how to cope up with cancer fatigue.

Fatigue gets usually described as feeling tired, exhausted, and weak. A search online will uncover all sorts of
articles about fatigue, many of which often get conflated with general tiredness.

We can be tired if we don’t have enough sleep, have worked too hard, or have a cold or the flu that leaves us run
down. Rest and sleep, as well as a healthy lifestyle, help us to recharge our batteries and recover our energy.

What is cancer-related fatigue, then? Cancer fatigue is more specific and related to the disease and its treatment,
or a mixture of both. It is generally deeply rooted and will persist even after the patient has rested well and had
a good night’s sleep.

Symptoms include loss of vitality and energy, with individuals most of the time preferring to stay in bed rather than
get up and do something. It can be hard to get going in the morning, and sleep may be disturbed, which makes things

There may also be physical symptoms such as muscle soreness or shortness of breath when doing even minor tasks.

The majority of people who have been diagnosed with cancer will experience some level of fatigue. One study found
that 83.3% of patients with cancer experienced it at some stage during their treatment.

There are several reasons why cancer-related fatigue occurs. The first is down to the type of cancer and the changes
it causes in the body. Some cancers promote the release of cytokines, for example, which have been shown to cause

Treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy all have side effects that cause various levels of
fatigue. Worry and lack of sleep can also lead to a lot of general tiredness, as can poor nutrition and chronic

You can list the causes of fatigue thus

  • Cancer itself
  • Cancer treatment
  • Anemia
  • Pain
  • Emotions
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition
  • Medications
  • Lack of exercise
  • Hormonal changes

Indeed, not every cancer patient experiences the same level of fatigue. The fatigue in some patients may last for a
short time, while, for others, it may last longer.

Living with fatigue, as well as a cancer diagnosis, is immensely challenging, but there are things individuals can
do to help themselves cope. It’s important to not completely accept fatigue and cancer as part of life but find
strategies that relieve tiredness and improve quality of life.

There may be some things that the individual can change that can improve their energy levels. For instance,
medication may have side effects, pain relief could help improve sleep at night, and tackling something like anemia
can boost red blood cells.

Undertaking regular exercise, going for a walk, or swimming can help combat fatigue. It is essential, however, to
get the advice of a physician about what exercise is the safest. With fatigue, half the battle is to build up the
energy to do something.

Diet plays a vital role in our energy levels, even when we get completely healthy. When a patient gets treated for
cancer, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy diet. Plenty of fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated
should be a priority, even if it means grazing on food rather than eating a big meal

One essential way to combat cancer-related fatigue is to get a good night’s sleep regularly. It can be beneficial to
look at individual sleeping habits and whether, for example, avoiding caffeine or going to bed at the same time
every night makes a difference.

There is some evidence that having regular massages can help improve sleep and relieve stress, all of which should
help reduce cancer fatigue.

Talking with people who have experienced similar issues can be another good option. There is likely someone who has
been through the same challenges and finding out how they coped and what strategies they used to improve their
cancer fatigue can be helpful.

Cancer fatigue can make patients feel they are losing control of their lives and compound other worries about work,
family life, and the future. While there may be times when all the individual wants to do is curl up in bed and
sleep, having plans in place can make a big difference.

Certainly, cancer fatigue affects most patients, but if the tiredness persists, becomes a problem, and you find it
tough to do your everyday task. It is also necessary to reach out and get professional advice from a healthcare

If an individual has issues such as dizziness, loss of balance, being too tired to get out of bed, or symptoms
worsening, it is certainly essential to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

A doctor can order tests to see if there is another medical issue, such as anemia, it needs to be solved, or they may
look at the type of medication currently used to evaluate the severity.

The doctor will assess this and the nature of the symptoms through some queries like

  • The doctor will assess this and the nature of the symptoms through some queries like
  • When did you begin experiencing fatigue
  • How severe it is
  • Is there progression since the diagnosis
  • How long does it last
  • How does it ease
  • What makes it worse
  • How does it affect your daily life
  • Is there chest discomfort or shortness of breath
  • What is the sleep pattern and quality
  • How are your appetite and hunger
  • How do you feel emotionally

The doctor may do some physical tests like x-rays,

scans, blood tests, and more based on your experience and would want to know your medical history.

Yes, you will need some help and know about coping strategies to minimize your trouble due to fatigue. Once the
results are out, the doctors may suggest some coping strategies, and they may likely be not just one; but many
methods to help reduce the symptoms and make the fatigue bearable. Indeed, coping with this is essential, and with
some of the self-care methods suggested along with some medications, it will become easy. In rare cases, when anemia
causes fatigue, the doctor may recommend a blood transfusion as a temporary measure. You may get some medications
prescribed to stimulate blood marrow to increase the production of red blood cells, which will help you overcome
anemia. Also, the doctor may prescribe medications to improve sleep and depression. The doctor may suggest a few
self-care options, such as conserving energy and exercising. It is vital to work with your doctor to alleviate the
symptoms of fatigue and deal with your body condition and pave the way for better health.

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