In this blog, Content Developer Azmina sets out practical tips for coping with fatigue caused by cancer or its treatment.
As many as 9 out of 10 people with cancer (90%) get cancer-related fatigue (CRF) at some point. If you have CRF, you may feel very tired or exhausted all or most of the time.
CRF is different from the everyday tiredness that people without cancer may experience. You may get tired quickly after small amounts of activity. Even after resting or sleeping, you may still feel exhausted.
It is possible to manage CRF and support is available. Your healthcare team may be able to help improve your quality of life.
What causes fatigue?
CRF is complex and the causes are not fully understood. There are many possible reasons why you feel so tired, including:
Tips for managing fatigue
CRF can affect your daily activities, but there are things you can do to manage fatigue:
If you have not been very active for a while, it is best to start slowly and get advice from your doctor or nurse. You could set yourself simple goals, like walking from the front door to the back door. Then try to walk a bit further around the house each time.
A physiotherapist can suggest exercises that are safe and suitable. You can also order our free Move More pack, which includes a DVD with gentle activity videos you can do at home.
Drink plenty of fluids and try different foods if you have taste changes, until things improve. If you have lost your appetite, you can eat regular, small portions of food rather than a big meal, or get high-calorie drinks on prescription. It may help to prepare extra food when you feel less tired and freeze it.
For more tips, you can read the information on our website or order our free booklet Coping with fatigue (tiredness). Call our Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am to 8pm) to talk to an experienced cancer nurse about managing fatigue.
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We're with you every step of the way
The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
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Hi well today I finished my radiotherapy it’s been hard but i have tried to keep positive through this. One of my main problems is tiredness. How far of a walk should I do and any good exercises I could do I had stage 1 grade 3 invasive ductal breast cancer the tumour was removed and a lymph node. I’m now on letrozol.
Hi Angel68111, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that you're dealing with fatigue, but glad to read about your positive attitude! If you can, it's best to get advice from your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or GP before making changes to manage fatigue. Your GP or cancer doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist cancer physiotherapist to help you.
You might also find it helpful to talk to a cancer information nurse specialist on the phone or on our online chat. Remember that calls to the Macmillan Support Line are free and confidential. You can call 0808 808 00 00 for a chat any day, between 8am and 8pm.
I have recent been diagnosed with GI and stomach cancer,quite advanced I think. I am struggling with fatigue after very little exertion . The oncologist said I was anaemia and perhaps this is a factor. Nit sure what iron to get as I can’t swallow pills.
can you advise me please
I’m 75 years old and have recently recovered from early stages of prostate cancer. I have recently been diagnosed with high grade Non Hodgekin Lymphoma. Feeling absolutely exhausted after my 3rd cycle of R Chop chemo. The first and third cycle caused my heart rate to drop to below 35 bpm. (I have had a heart stent and still have a blocked artery). My heart rate improved without treatment after a few days but I’m wondering if anyone else has had this side effect.
Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about your recent non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, and that you’re feeling the side effects of treatment. If you’re looking to ask other people about their experiences of NHL, you may want to join the non-Hodgkin lymphoma Online Community forum and ask your question there. You may find our information about heart health helpful, too. Remember you can also call our free helpline on 0808 808 00 00, 8am to 8pm, to speak to a cancer information nurse specialist.
Liza – Macmillan Cancer Support