People who feel fatigue often say that even a small effort, such as
walking across a room, can seem like too much. Fatigue can seriously
affect a person's daily activities, including the ability to work, be
involved with their family, or socialize. Fatigue may cause people to
avoid or skip cancer treatments and may even affect their will to live.
It is common for fatigue to appear after treatment at the following
- A few days after
- A few weeks after
beginning radiation treatment
- After treatment with
immunotherapy (also known as biologic therapy), such as
alpha-interferon (Roferon-A, Intron A, Alferon N)
and interleukins (Proleukin or Oprelvekin)
It is important to tell your doctor that you are experiencing fatigue. To
understand your fatigue, your doctor may ask you at what times you feel
especially tired and whether the fatigue affects your ability to perform
regular activities. You may even be asked to describe your fatigue on a
scale from "no fatigue" to "most fatigue." Sometimes,
other conditions may contribute to fatigue,
including pain, depression, or insomnia.
Your doctor may also take a blood sample to determine whether anemia
(low number of red blood cells) or another problem may be causing
The following suggestions may help you better manage fatigue:
- Exercise regularly.
People who exercise experience less fatigue overall and report
improvement in appetite, weight, bowel habits, strength, and
self-image. It can start with something simple, such as walking a
few minutes a day.
- Conserve your energy.
Choose a time of day when you have more energy for daily activities,
prioritize activities, and do strenuous things during the time of
day when you have the most energy.
- Seek treatment for
depression, pain, sleep disorders, or other conditions that may be
adding to your fatigue.
In addition, the drug epoetin (Epogen, Procrit) has been
proven to increase energy levels in people with anemia, which may
contribute to fatigue. Talk with your doctor for more information.
PLWC: Managing Side Effects
PLWC Feature: Coping With Cancer-Related Fatigue