Cancer-Related Fatigue: What It Is and How You Can Deal With It

Cancer-Related Fatigue: What It Is and How You Can Deal With It

While there are many different side effects of cancer, did you know the number one overlooked side effect is fatigue?


Cancer-related fatigue can take an enormous toll on an individual undergoing cancer treatment, and yet it seems to be one of the most overlooked side effects, due in part because people experience everyday fatigue as well.

But what makes cancer-related fatigue so taxing?

According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, “There are many factors, including the disease, treatments, medications, pain, nutritional deficits, anxiety, and depression that can cause cancer-related fatigue.”

This isn’t just a sluggish afternoon that many people experience in their day-to-day lives. “People describe it as feeling weak, listless, drained, or “washed out.” Some may feel too tired to eat, walk to the bathroom, or even use the TV remote. It can be hard to think or move. Rest does not make it go away, and just a little activity can be exhausting,” the American Cancer Society reports.

How Can I Manage Cancer-Related Fatigue?

Talk to your cancer care support team. They’re there to help you! Once you describe your level of fatigue and what activity causes you to feel completely depleted of energy, they can recommend ways to lessen your fatigue.

Tips for Preventing Fatigue

The Lymphoma Research Foundation outlined a few tips to keep track of and even avoid fatigue if possible. When you’re experiencing cancer-related fatigue from treatments and your diagnosis, here are other things you can do to try to lessen fatigue:

  • Keep a diary to help identify which times of the day, during which activities, or during what times related to treatment cycles you have the most energy. Logging this information can help you prevent from engaging with certain activities that cause you the most fatigue and engage during times when you have the most energy
  • Prioritize tasks and put the ones you use the most energy first, so you can accomplish your important to-dos before fatigue sets in.
  • Organize your surroundings so that you have easy access to items you need most frequently
  • Avoid food or drinks that don’t give you sustainable energy. For example, food or drinks with high sugar levels can cause you to “crash” later and bring on high levels of fatigue

And while it might seem counter-intuitive, exercise has been shown to reduce cancer-related fatigue. We suggest watching our webinar on exercise and talk with your health care team about what types of exercise might be appropriate for you.

Interested in other resources?

Check out Triage Cancer’s Stress Management resource page for helpful information and videos on managing stress, which can also contribute to fatigue. You can also read a previous blog post on Cancer-Related Fatigue here.

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