Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Combatting cancer-related fatigue with occupational therapy

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The American Cancer Society reports that between 70 and 100 percent of patients receiving cancer treatment experience fatigue at some point. Fatigue can interfere with all aspects of life, including your ability to participate in activities that are important to you.

Occupational Therapy Awareness Month is a good time to explore how people with cancer can use this therapy to combat fatigue, one of the most common side effects of treatment.

“Occupational therapy can help patients conserve energy and regain strength so they can return to a more active and independent lifestyle,” says Joseph Domanico, DOT, occupational therapist at CTCA in Philadelphia.

Occupational therapists observe individuals and their routines to identify strategies to boost energy. An “occupation,” says Domanico, is much more than what you do for a job. Rather, it’s anything you do throughout your day, from simple tasks like brushing your teeth, to more complex tasks like balancing your checkbook.

For example, most times just lying in bed will actually cause you to become more tired, says Domanico. “Activity can provide you with a boost of energy, but also allows you to sleep and rest better.” Some activities include light exercises, but it also helps to complete basic ADL (Activities of Daily Living) tasks like dressing, cooking and hobbies.

Here are some other ways to reduce cancer-related fatigue. Remember the 4 P’s:

  • Planning – Schedule activities, including bathing and dressing, around your energy level during times when you feel best and alternate heavy and light activities.
  • Prioritizing – Use your energy on the activities most important to you and try easier, shorter versions of these activities. If you don’t really need to do a particular activity, don’t.
  • Positioning – Modify your home and work environments to conserve energy. Place items within easy reach, choose activities that you can do while sitting, and practice good posture.
  • Pacing – Pace yourself, rest throughout the day before you get tired, and maintain a regular sleep routine (go to sleep and wake up at the same time).

Learn more about cancer-related fatigue.

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