Cancer and its treatment can cause many symptoms, from tiredness and sleep problems to eating difficulties, bladder problems and skin changes. But there are also many treatments available and ways of managing these symptoms.

One of the most common problems for people with cancer is fatigue. This means feeling excessively tired or exhausted all or most of the time. It can be one of the most difficult and debilitating symptoms that people experience. But there are treatments available and there are things you can do for yourself to help with fatigue. 

Order our free booklet Controlling the symptoms of cancer now. It discusses the different symptoms of cancer as well as treatments and techniques that can be used to control them. The booklet looks in detail at fatigue, eating and breathing difficulties, problems affecting the bladder, bowels and skin, fluid build-up and emotional effects. It also includes a symptom diary where you can keep track of how you're feeling. This can help you and your medical team to find your triggers and see which treatments are/aren’t working.

Image showing the front cover and an inside page of Controlling the symptoms of cancer

Causes of fatigue

The cause of fatigue varies from person to person. Tell your doctors and nurses about your fatigue. This will help them give you the best care.

Fatigue may be due to the cancer itself, or it may be a result of other symptoms, including breathlessness, pain or anaemia (a low red blood cell count). It can be a side effect of cancer treatment or it can happen if your medication changes. Fatigue usually improves after cancer treatment has ended, but sometimes it remains a problem.

10 tips for controlling fatigue

‘I did learn to plan to do things in small bursts of activity and just had to slow down in order to manage my breathing and fatigue.’

Some causes of fatigue can be treated; for example fatigue caused by anaemia can be helped by having a blood transfusion. But there are many things you can try yourself to help with fatigue:­

Number one  Plan ahead – plan your most important activities for times when you know you’ll have more energy.

Number two  If you can make things easier, do – for example, do your shopping online rather than by going out and save your energy for something you enjoy.

Number three  You could think about rearranging your home to make things easier, such as having your bedroom as close to the toilet as possible. 

Number four  Sit down for everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and preparing food. 

Number five  Use a trolley to carry heavy items like laundry or shopping. 

Number six  Mobile or cordless phones mean you don’t have to rush to answer the telephone. 

Number seven  Cook simpler meals to reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.

Number eight  Listen to audiobooks if you’re too tired to read.

Number nine  Get help with any paperwork, such as filling in forms

Number ten  Go for a walk – research has found that doing some exercise can help relieve the symptoms of fatigue. Going for a short walk can be a good start. Your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist can advise you about how much and which type of exercise would be helpful for you. 

More helpful tips on controlling fatigue and other common symptoms of cancer can be found in our free booklet, Controlling the symptoms of cancer.

We’re with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is always here to help – if you’d like to talk to someone, please get in touch.  We have a team of experts who can answer any questions you have, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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