What is fatigue?
Fatigue is the feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, commonly experienced as a symptom of cancer and a side effect of its treatment, especially radiation therapy. Unlike the normal fatigue you encounter in everyday life, this fatigue is long-lasting and might not be cured with the rest.
Radiotherapy fatigue related to cancer can seriously interrupt your daily routine by making you feel lethargic and unwell in general. The degree of fatigue can vary day to day; it may get better one day only to worsen in the next. It is hard to predict how long fatigue will last. Also, fatigue can make it difficult for you to follow your treatment plan. For these reasons, managing fatigue is a vital part of the care of a cancer patient.
Firstly, inform your medical team of your level of fatigue, because fatigue is simply a feeling, and there are no diagnostic tests to assess it. You can use a scale of 0 to 10 (0 mean none and 10 mean the most severe), or just words like ‘none’, ‘mild’, ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’. Doctors will help you deal with the fatigue and reduce it, if possible.
Causes of fatigue:
The reasons for radiotherapy fatigue are often not evident. The usual culprits are:
- Your Cancer: Some cancers often release proteins called cytokines that are believed to cause fatigue. Cancer basically enhances body’s energy needs, weakens your muscles causing the destruction of body’s cells or organs leading to fatigue.
- Cancer treatment: Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow therapy, etc. all destroy healthy body cells along with targeted cancer cells causing fatigue in the whole body. It may also be due to side effects of drugs.
- Anemia: Anemia develops as a result of cancer treatment as it destroys red blood cells or cancer spreads to the bone marrow that produce red blood cells.
- Emotion: Stress, depression and anxiety are the result of cancer diagnosis and lead to fatigue.
- Infection: Skin infections generate as a result of radiotherapy in the form of skin ulcers or skin wounds. They may lead to dizziness and tiredness
- Insomnia: Interrupted sleep may cause fatigue and tiredness the whole day
- Inactivity: If you are a regular exercise person, then inactivity due to radiotherapy leads to fatigue.
- Medication: Medications such as painkillers or drugs used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment like nausea and anxiety lead to fatigue
- Poor nutrition: To perform activities or any work efficiently, energy is required for a healthy. Due to cancer the ability to process nutrients is disturbed and that in turn leads to anorexia (loss of appetite). Hence, cause fatigue.
- Hormonal imbalance: Changes to the hormonal glands like thyroid gland, adrenal gland, ovaries or testes may all cause fatigue
If the cause is known, treatment can focus on that cause. However, most of the time, the cause remains unknown, so a more fruitful approach to the problem is to learn ways to manage fatigue.
Prevention and Treatment:
Given below are some suggestions on how to manage fatigue in your day-to-day life.
- Sleep at least 8 hours every day. It may be more than you’re used to, so look for ways that will help you sleep longer. A good deal of physical activity during the day can work wonders for your sleep. Also, find ways to relax before going to bed, such as listening to music or reading a book.
- Working out for 15-30 minutes each day might help you feel better. Stick to light activity such as walking and stretches, nothing too strenuous. Consult your nurse or doctor on the amount of exercise that is appropriate for you.
- Try your best to remain active, but don’t waste your precious energy by trying to do everything you want to. Too much effort might worsen your fatigue. Prioritized the things you need to do, and try to do the most important things first.
- Keep your regular necessities within reach so that you don’t have to exert too much effort to get them.
- Stress is one of the causes of fatigue, so find ways to keep it at bay. Good suggestions for such activities are listening to music, reading, meditation, prayer and socializing. Any activity that makes you feel relaxed will do.
- Set aside some time for rest during the day. Taking a short nap might help you feel better. 10 to 15 minutes of rest is usually enough, but try not to make it over an hour.
- Arrange your work schedule to suit you. Depending on your level of fatigue, you may be capable of working normally, or for not more than a few hours. Working from home is an option to consider. So is taking sick leave for the duration of the treatment.
- Plan a schedule for radiation therapy sessions that best suits you, keeping in mind your activities for the day.
- If you find it hard to cope with fatigue, talk to your doctor. Drugs called psychostimulants can ease your fatigue and help you feel better. Also, your doctor will help treat other problems such as depression, insomnia, and anemia.
Fatigue is usually caused by cancer therapies, in particular radiotherapy. Fatigue can affect the quality of life more than pain or any other symptom. It may be caused due to many reasons. Your doctor may advise you strategies to cope with fatigue related to radiotherapy that might include medications or self-care interventions.
- Cancer fatigue; why it occurs and how to cope
- Fatigue and Radiotherapy
- Radiotherapy tiredness
- General information on fatigue
- Cancer related fatigue and simple fatigue
- Radiotherapy related fatigue
Photo Source: GoodNewsNetwook.Org
Dr. Adem Gunes has built the world’s largest database of scientifically tested natural substances with proven effects in cancer treatments. In 2009, he was appointed as the Chief Physician of ProLife Clinic in Innsbruck, Austria, and played a key role in the establishment of the research laboratory. He is also the co-founder of the first Austrian hyperthermia center. Now, Dr. Adem works closely with cancer patients from around the world (including Germany, Thailand, Dubai) to recommend them a complementary cancer clinic or to create a personalized care plan for patients to follow at home.