Your Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 8 years ago

7 Steps to Beating Cancer Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is more than just feeling tired: it’s a pervasive, bone-weary feeling of weakness and exhaustion that’s not related to activity and is not always relieved by rest or sleep.

“Each person’s experience may be different, but such fatigue can be distressing,” said Brian Kirby, RN, BSN, Hematology Nurse Navigator with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute. “It keeps sufferers from normal activities and makes it hard for them to follow their cancer treatments as prescribed. But cancer fatigue can be managed, and proper management can greatly improve how you feel.” Treatable causes of cancer fatigue include: • Anemia • Pain from treatment • Emotional distress, depression, anxiety • Sleep problems • Poor nutrition or lack of appetite • Lack of physical activity • Low thyroid function • Infection • Heart, lung, kidney and nervous system diseases Medications may be available to treat the underlying cases of your fatigue. “For example, your provider may treat anemia with iron and folic acid supplements, a blood transfusion or drugs that help bone marrow make red blood cells,” said Kirby.

Strategies to Beat Cancer Fatigue

“Don't accept the fatigue you're experiencing as just part of the cancer experience,” said Kirby. “If it's impacting your ability to go about your day, it's time to talk with your doctor.”

Your doctor can treat the conditions that are causing the fatigue, offer support and community resource information, and refer to you specialists, if needed. Kirby offers the following suggestions to manage cancer-related fatigue:

1. Improve your sleep

“Practice good sleep-inducing habits and develop a sleep routine,” said Kirby. Tips include avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and exercise late in the day; going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; and creating an ideal sleeping environment that’s cool, dark and quiet.

2. Plan your day around regular rest periods

Reserve your energy for the activities most important to you and take short naps to rest throughout the day.

3. Seek help

Let family and friends know what you need, such as help with child care, grocery shopping, meal preparation, errands or household chores.

4. Reduce stress

“Learn and practice stress-reduction techniques like breathing exercises or meditation,” said Kirby. “And don’t cut yourself off from family and friends. Keeping socially active is important to reduce stress, but don’t overdo it and tire yourself out.”

5. Stay active

Incorporate light-to-moderate physical activity, such as walking, to relieve fatigue, boost your mood, improve your appetite and increase your energy. Work with your healthcare provider to develop an activity routine that’s right for you.

6. Follow a healthy diet

Eat a balanced diet that includes protein- rich foods, such as meat, milk, eggs and beans; and drink around eight to 10 glasses of water daily. “Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals, which take more energy to digest,” said Kirby.

7. Get support

Talk with your family and friends or consider joining a support group. “Sharing your experiences can help lift your burden, and you may learn helpful ways to cope with your fatigue through the experience of others,” said Kirby.