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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Tips for relieving cancer-related fatigue


Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer and its treatment, according to the American Cancer Society, with one 2011 study estimating that 50 to 90 percent of cancer patients report feeling fatigued. Fatigued patients often describe feeling exhausted, lethargic or weak, having heavy arms and legs, and little drive to participate in activities. Some experience bouts of insomnia or may sleep too much. For those suffering from fatigue, even simple activities can seem grueling. In fact, fatigue associated with cancer is often unrelated to the amount of recent activity and not relieved by rest.

Unfortunately, the feeling typically doesn’t go away, even after a full night’s sleep. Factors including the type and stage of cancer, treatment history, current medications, nutritional status, sleep or rest patterns, emotional distress and certain conditions (such as anemia, breathing problems, decreased muscle strength, pain, etc.) are important considerations in determining how to approach fatigue management.

A number of supportive care services may help alleviate fatigue by addressing some of its underlying causes and may help prevent interruptions in treatment. These services include:

Chiropractic care: Pain may contribute to fatigue and can lead to poor sleep, which compounds fatigue. Chiropractic care providers can help reduce musculoskeletal stress, which may help alleviate pain and improve quality of sleep.

Mind-body medicine: This team offers a variety of techniques to enhance the mind’s impact on physical function, symptoms and health. Talk therapy, relaxation and breathing techniques as well as yoga are examples.

Nutrition therapy: Trained dietitians can evaluate and manage nutritional deficiencies that may contribute to fatigue. Education and recommendations may help correct deficits, including strategies for:

  • Adequate hydration maintenance
  • Calorie and protein intake, including nutrient-dense foods and liquids as well as quick and easy meal and snack ideas
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies using food and/or supplements

Oncology rehabilitation: Physical and occupational therapists evaluate and recommend appropriate activities. Hands-on techniques like massage have also been shown to help with fatigue.

Acupuncture: Small studies have shown that acupuncture may be helpful as part of an interdisciplinary approach to managing fatigue.