Tips For Overcoming Cancer Fatigue


Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment, often having a negative effect on a patient's life long after therapy has been completed.

"Fatigue can affect daily activities, relationships with family and friends, and limit a patient's ability to work," said Pernille Ostberg, MBA, RPh, president and CEO of Matrix Home Care, a statewide service provider. "In some cases, physical fatigue leads to mental fatigue and mood changes."

While getting plenty of sleep is a good remedy for a healthy person tired by day-to-day activities, that often doesn't work with cancer patients, according to Rhonda Surgnier, RN, CMC, director of nursing in Matrix's Tampa/Bradenton office. "Cancer patients get tired more easily and that fatigue can persist long after the end of treatment," she said. "In fact, about 30 percent of cancer survivors may experience chronic fatigue that lasts for months or years.

Surgnier, who is a breast cancer survivor, says many patient become depressed and those emotions can also contribute to fatigue. Since fatigue can also be a sign of a recurrence or another illness, it's important for patients to get follow-up medical checkups.

If you or a family member is experiencing cancer fatigue, here are some suggestions to improve the quality of life:

--Treat any related conditions, such as chronic pain or infection.

--Keep a log of daily activities to see when fatigue occurs.

--Track the hours of sleep each night.

--Identify situations that contribute to fatigue, such as sitting down for too long or having to concentrate for a long period.

--Allow time to rest between daily activities.

--Discourage the use of tobacco products.

--Develop an exercise plan.

--Work with the healthcare team to develop a healthy diet.

--Avoid heavy meals, food or drinks containing caffeine, and intense exercise prior to bedtime.

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