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Oncology: Managing Fatigue

Fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It can be caused by worry, lack of sleep, and poor appetite. Fatigue can also be a sign of anemia (a shortage of red blood cells). This could require medical treatment. The tips below can help you feel better.

Three women in kitchen making a meal.
Family members can help with meals and chores around the house.
Conserving Energy

  • Note the times of day when you are most tired and plan around them. For instance, if you are more tired in the afternoon, try to get tasks done in the morning.

  • Decide which tasks are most important. Do those first.

  • Pass tasks along to others when you need to. Ask for help.

  • Accept help when it’s offered. Tell people what they can do to help. For instance, you may need someone to fix a meal, fold clothes, or put gas in your car.

  • Plan rest times. You may want to take a nap each day. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes can make you feel more rested.

What You Can Do to Feel Better

  • Relax before you try to sleep. Take a bath or read for a while.

  • Form a sleep pattern. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.

  • Eat well. Choose foods from all of the food groups each day.

  • Exercise. Take a brisk walk to help increase your energy.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Drink plenty of water or fruit juices instead.

Treating Anemia

If you begin to feel more tired than normal, tell your doctor. Fatigue could be a sign of anemia. This problem is fairly common during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. If your red blood cell count is too low, you are likely to receive a blood transfusion. Most people feel better shortly after the transfusion. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to increase red blood cell production.

Call Your Doctor If You Have:

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

  • A dizzy feeling when you get up from lying or sitting down

  • Paler skin than normal

  • Extreme tiredness that is not helped by sleep

Online Medical Reviewer: de la Cruz, Marlene, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Held-Warmkessell, Jeanne, MSN
Last Review Date: 1/31/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.