Cancer Counseling Hotline
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Undergoing treatment for cancer can leave you feeling constantly tired. Parkway Cancer Centre’s Senior Dietitian, Gerard Wong, takes a look at how you can manage the chronic fatigue.
Most of us know what it feels like to be tired when we have a cold or flu, when we lack sleep, or when we have just had a long run or other physical exercise.
Such tiredness or normal fatigue doesn’t persist, and usually goes away after we get some rest, stop our activities, or recover from our illnesses.
Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, is a persistent, lingering tiredness that refuses to go away even after a full night’s sleep. You may feel constantly exhausted to the point that you find it hard to concentrate and manage your daily routine.
Many cancer patients experience chronic or cancer-related fatigue arising from the cancer itself or from the treatment.
While such fatigue is common, each person may experience it differently, with varying levels of fatigue that can last from several weeks to months even after they complete their treatment.
Chronic or cancer-related fatigue can be debilitating and distressing, as they can affect your daily life physically, mentally and emotionally.
Don’t assume it is a part of the cancer experience and just bear with it or ignore it.
Talk to your doctor about your fatigue, and he may get you screened for possible causes and suggest appropriate medical interventions. He may also refer you to an allied health professional team to suggest ways to manage your fatigue.
Some common strategies include:
Often, cancer-related fatigue is not caused by just one thing. It can come from a range of sources, including:
If you suffer from blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, you may have a low red blood cell count and suffer from anaemia, which leads to extreme fatigue and weakness. Cancer of the lung may also cause you to feel breathless and fatigued. Patients who are elderly or suffer from an advanced cancer are also more prone to fatigue. Finally not forgetting that in all cancers, that the tumour can produce cytokines that can cause lethargy.
Fatigue is a common side effect of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and often, can last for a few weeks or months after treatment ends. Other side effects of cancer treatment can also cause changes in your eating habits, leading to poor appetite, which in turn can cause or worsen your energy level and fatigue.
Poor appetite, a change in tastes, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and mouth sores can lead to poor nutrition and inadequate caloric intake. Cancer can also affect the body’s ability to absorb and process nutrients efficiently and effectively. These, in turn, will lead to low energy level and fatigue.
The cancer itself and the side effects of treatment can cause pain, which may make you become less active, eat less, and sleep less or poorly. The pain is likely to affect your mood, too. All of these can contribute to fatigue.
While cancer-related fatigue affects people in different ways and may be different during and after treatment, look out for these common symptoms and tell your doctor right away if you experience:
|TAGS||anaemia, blood cancer, common side effects of cancer treatment, fatigue|