Radiotherapy Associated Fatigue: Causes And Management

How To Manage Fatigue During Breast Cancer Radiation TherapyWhat 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.

Identify fatigue:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

References:

  1. Cancer fatigue; why it occurs and how to cope
  2. Fatigue and Radiotherapy
  3. Radiotherapy tiredness
  4. General information on fatigue
  5. Cancer related fatigue and simple fatigue
  6. Radiotherapy related fatigue

Photo Source: GoodNewsNetwook.Org

Dr. Adem GunesDr. 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.

Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger & Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm and Ginger Protect Against RadiatiopnBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

The German Medical Association finally just apologized for the profession’s role in the Nazi atrocities, 65 years after 20 physicians stood trial in Nuremberg. During the trial, the Nazi doctors argued that their experiments were not unlike previous studies by researchers in the United States, like Dr. Strong’s injection of prisoners with the plague. Nazi Docs were hung; Dr. Strong, went on to Harvard. And we were just getting started. The few examples the Nazis cited were nothing compared to what the American medical establishment started doing after Nuremburg. After all prisoners are much cheaper than chimpanzees.

Much attention has focused on our cold war radiation experiments, which remained classified for decades. Declassification, the American Energy Commission warned, they would have a very poor effect on the public, because they described experiments performed on human subjects, including the actual injection of plutonium into the body. Subjects like Mr.Cade, a 53 “colored male” who got in a car accident and ended up in the hospital—great! Let’s inject him with plutonium.

Who else is powerless besides patients? How about kids, at the Fernald School for the mentally retarded in Waltham, Massachusetts who were fed radioactive isotopes in their breakfast cereal. Despite the Pentagon’s insistence that these were the “only feasible means” of developing ways to protect people from radiation, researchers have since come up with a few ways that don’t violate the Nuremburg code, which states the only time doctors are allowed to do experiments that may kill or disable people if they themselves are willing to sign up as experimental subjects as well.

One way is to study cells in a petri dish. The protective effect of Zingerone against radiation-induced genetic damage and cell death in human white blood cells. What is zingerone? It’s a phytonutrient found in cooked ginger root. You blast cells with some gamma rays and you get less DNA damage and fewer free radicals when add ginger phytonutrients. They even compared it to the leading drug injected into people to protect them from radiation sickness and found the ginger compound to be 150 times more powerful. And without the serious side effects of the drug itself.

They conclude that it’s an inexpensive natural product that may protect against radiation-induced damage. In fact lots of different plant-products have been found to be protective in vitro against radiation damage by a whole variety of mechanisms. After all, plants have been utilized since time immemorial for curing diseases, so they started screening plants and also found radiation-protective benefits from other plants one can find at grocery stores: garlic, turmeric, goji berries, mint leaves but this is all just on cells in a test tube. None had actually been tested in actual people, until now.

How are you going to find people exposed to radiation you can test stuff on? Well, aside from pilots, another group that suffers inordinate radiation exposure is the hospital workers that run the X-ray machines, who have been found to suffer chromosomal damage as a result, compared to other hospital staff, and higher levels of oxidative stress on their bodies. Although X-rays can damage DNA directly, much of the damage is caused by the free radicals generated by the radiation.

So, they asked radiology staff to drink two cups a day of lemon balm tea a for a month, an herbal tea known to have high levels of antioxidants as I showed in one of my favorite videos, Antioxidants in a Pinch. So what happened? The level of antioxidant enzymes in their bloodstream went up and the level of free radical damage went down, leading to the conclusion that oral administration of lemon balm tea may be helpful for the protection of the radiology staff against radiation-induced oxidative stress and improve antioxidant defense system, especially enzymatic defense, due to its antioxidant properties. And if that’s the reason that practically any plant should fit the bill. So know that as you’re sucking on some crystalized ginger to prevent travel sickness on some airplane, little did you know that you may be protecting yourself from the cosmic radiation at that altitude as well.

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Photo Source: ThePlumPalet.com

Comfort During Cancer – Radiation Burn Relief – Lots To Live For Cancer Side Effect Solutions

Radiation Burn TreatmentBy Margot Malin, CEO and President of Lots To Live For, Inc

The beginning of a cancer treatment journey can be overwhelming. It is emotional and there is so much new information to absorb, and so many unknowns to research.

The beginning of a series of radiation oncology treatments may be just one piece of the overall protocol. Below we share some tips to help you through treatment.

Radiation oncology can cause a number of side effects. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you start so that you can be well prepared.  The most common side effect is radiation dermatitis – a condition where the skin of the treated area becomes red and irritated.  Typical symptoms of radiation burns and radiation dermatitis include dryness, redness, itching, swelling, and possibly a rash.  In addition, radiation can cause hair loss, desquamation (wet or dry), edema and/or ulcerations.  Sometimes the side effects of treatment become so severe that treatment must be discontinued until the skin heals. Unfortunately, interruption can compromise treatment.

Dermatologic issues and related discomfort can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life.  Quality of life issues are important because they affect a patients ability to complete daily tasks and on a broader scale, affect overall emotional health and well being during treatment. A positive outlook and frame of mind can ease the cancer journey and discomfort can certainly be a damper on outlook.

Here are a few simple tips for skin care during radiation treatment.  Please consult your oncology team for more though medical advice and recommendations.

  1. Do not expose the area receiving radiation to direct sunlight during treatment.  Many people do not realize that they should also avoid sunlight to irradiated skin for several years after treatment.  Please confirm the length of time your doctor or nurse would like you to avoid direct sunlight to the treated area.
  2. Only use products that are as gentle and as natural as possible for cleansing.
  3. Use warm water, avoid hot water.
  4. Try to keep the skin as soft and supple as possible to prevent itching and peeling.  Use moisturizers with no harsh ingredients
  5. Only use covers, wraps and bandages with no adhesives because adhesives can pull and tear already thin and damaged skin.
  6. Do not remove any markings put on your skin by your radiation oncology team because they guide placement for the oncology technician.
  7. Do not put any creams or oils on your skin immediately before your radiation treatments.
  8. Wear loose fitting cotton clothing around the area where you are receiving treatment. If you are receiving radiation to the breast area you might want to avoid wearing a bra. If this is not possible, avoid bras with underwires.
  9. Soft cotton sheets may help you feel more comfortable at night and help you sleep better.

Even if you take the precautions above, you might still develop redness, tenderness, and radiation burns.  Luckily, there are a number of excellent products that are soothing and helpful.  Many of them were developed by individuals who battled cancer themselves. They have walked in your shoes.  All of these products are more fully described on the Lots To Live For, Inc. website.

Below we have created a simple guide to products that are helpful during radiation skin care.

Radiation Lotions and Radiation Creams

RADX makes 4 products that are helpful to radiation therapy patients. The RADX moisture therapy can be used before and after radiation, and may prevent deterioration of the skin, thereby avoiding skin breakdown and painful burns. However, if patients have already experienced burns they may find relief from the RADX radiation therapy which contains lidocaine to relieve pain.

My Girls™ Skin Care Cream is a plant-based, calendula cream that also contains rosemary, honey and natural oils.  The My Girls Cream formula is free of toxins, fragrance and dyes.

DermaQOL Relief Therapy Cream   is made of a rich blend of organic essential oils which deeply penetrate and nourish the skin. It helps soothe difficult, irritated, or very rough, dry, scaly, and patchy areas leaving the skin feeling renewed. All DermaQOL products are free of all harsh ingredients.

Cool Magic Hydrogel Sheets, Skin Cooler Rolls, and Cooler Pads

You should not use heating pads or ice packs on the area receiving radiation. Hydrogel sheets, and cooler products can be refrigerated and placed on the skin – they soothe and cool the burned area.  Check with your oncology team before use because they may not be recommended for very bad burns.

Cool Magic Hydrogel Sheets are mentioned in many cancer blogs for their effectiveness. They cool live nerve endings due to their 90% water-10% polyethylene formulation. They provide instant cooling to burns, abrasions, skin tears, radiation reactions and sensitive wounds, effectively reducing pain.

Skin Cooler Rolls are similar to the Cool Magic gel sheets. The natural properties of water and aloe vera combine to help soothe any compromised area and promote a moist, healing environment for healthy skin.

Cancer treatment can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Techniques and products to reduce side effects can help make the process more comfortable and hopefully improve your fame of mind, your energy, and hopefully your overall outcome. We know that you have “Lots To Live For” and we provide cancer side effect solutions to help you maintain your normal lifestyle during treatment.

Related Article:

About Margot Malin: Intellectually cMargot Malinurious and fiercely independent, Margot Malin has a passion for knowledge.  After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she launched her career by analyzing and evaluating businesses.  In 2002 she embarked on the “creative reinvention” phase of her career with the intention of “giving back”. Margot founded Lots To Live For, Inc., an internet retailer that sells carefully selected products to reduce and relieve the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

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