Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of anti-cancer treatments. People also perceive fatigue to be the most distressing symptom associated with cancer and its treatment, more distressing than pain, nausea, and vomiting. Cancer-related fatigue is defined as a persistent feeling of physical, emotional, and mental tiredness or exhaustion related to cancer and/or its treatment. Although it is not preventable, there are several healthy habits that may help alleviate the severity of the fatigue. The resources below provide guidance and tips on sleep, energy conservation, exercise, nutrition, and stress management as valuable ways to manage cancer-related fatigue.
Watch This Cancer-Related Fatigue Webinar
Sleep and Energy Conservation
Sleep is your “reset” button. It is important to your emotional and physical recovery and allows our bodies to heal. It also helps our thinking processes and memory. The average adult needs between 7 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep to wake up feeling renewed and refreshed.
While undergoing anti-cancer treatment, you may notice that even with an adequate amount of sleep, you still feel tired and low on energy. This makes it challenging to accomplish your daily tasks. Changing your expectations is an important first step to reducing the frustration that can accompany your fatigue. Decide what activities are most important to you and do those things during the times when you have the most energy. Pace yourself with frequent rest breaks throughout your day. Don't be afraid to ask for help or say "no" to things that can wait. Napping is not discouraged but try to limit your naps to no more than 30 minutes to prevent disrupting the normal sleep cycle.
Exercise is the most important thing you can do to fight fatigue. Many studies, with many different types of patients, have proven this to be the case. Talk to your health care provider about what exercise can mean for you. For information on physical activity for cancer patients, visit our physical activity page.
Cancer-related fatigue is often made worse if you aren’t eating enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. Everyone’s nutritional needs can be different, so it is important to follow dietary guidance from your health care provider. If you want nutrition recommendations specific to your needs, a referral to a dietitian can be ordered by your care team. For information on nutrition for cancer patients, visit our nutrition and cancer page.
When you are tired, it is harder to handle the stress of everyday life. Stress can also cause you to unintentionally do things that make fatigue worse, such as tense your muscles, grit your teeth, and stiffen your shoulders. Strategies to help you manage stress and relax have been shown to help relieve cancer-related fatigue. For information on stress management for cancer patients, visit our stress management page.
- Video Library
- Coping with Cancer-Related Fatigue (video (6:46))
- How to Get the Healthy Sleep You Need (brochure)
- Cancer-Related Fatigue and Exercise (brochure)
- My Guide to Cancer Symptoms (brochure)
- Managing Chronic Fatigue (brochure)
- Mayo Clinic Cancer-Related Fatigue Clinic (brochure)
- Cancer-Related Resources
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