Cancer fatigue is when you feel very weak and exhausted during cancer treatment. You may struggle to complete daily tasks. Fatigue can last for weeks or even years.
Cancer and the side effects of treatment cause this condition. If your body is already weakened by cancer when treatment begins, then it is even more difficult to handle the side effects.
These conditions are caused by cancer or cancer treatment and can add to fatigue:
These factors increase your chance of developing cancer fatigue:
Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to cancer fatigue. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and do a physical exam. You may be asked:
Your doctor may also use a questionnaire to assess your fatigue.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Your doctor may prescribe:
Your doctor may advise that you participate in therapy. Talk with your therapist about whether cognitive behavioral therapy is right for you.
Your doctor may recommend that you try these approaches:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute of Canada
Cancer, chemotherapy, anemia and fatigue: what’s the connection? Anemia Institute website. Available at: http://www.anemiainstitute.org/index.php/en/Patient/Anemia-and-Cancer/Cancer,-Chemotherapy,-Anemia-and-Fatigue-What%E2%80%99s-the-Connection . Accessed November 19, 2008.
Cancer fatigue: it’s more than just being tired. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/patient-education-reference-center. Updated January 2007. Accessed November 8, 2008.
Cancer fatigue: why it occurs and how to cope. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cancer-fatigue/CA00032. Accessed November 19, 2008.
Coping with fatigue from chemotherapy. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/patient-education-reference-center. Updated July 2008. Accessed November 8, 2008.
Fatigue and cancer. International Cancer Council website. Available at: http://www.iccnetwork.org/cancerfacts/FatigueFactSheetJan2011RevPost.pdf. Accessed November 19, 2008.
Feeling tired vs. cancer-related fatigue. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/fatigue/feeling-tired-vs-cancer-related-fatigue. Updated October 2008. Accessed November 8, 2008.
Lower EE, Fleishman S, et al. Efficacy of dexmethylphenidate for the treatment of fatigue after cancer chemotherapy: a randomized clinical trial. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Nov;38(5):650-662.
Minton O, Richardson A, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the pharmacological treatment of cancer-related fatigue. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Aug 20;100(16):1155-1166.
Radiation therapy. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/patient-education-reference-center. Updated March 2008. Accessed November 8, 2008.
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. 28th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005; 298.
What to do when you feel weak or tired. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-side-effects/fatigue.pdf. Accessed November 8, 2008.
10/1/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Patterson E, Wan YW, Sidani S. Nonpharmacological nursing interventions for the management of patient fatigue: a literature review. J Clin Nurs. 2013 Oct;22(19-20): 2668-2678.
11/4/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Yennurajalingam S, Frisbee-Hume S, et al. Reduction of cancer-related fatigue with dexamethasone: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in patients with advanced cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2013 Sep1;31(25):3076-3082.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.