How to Cope with Fatigue for Survivors

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common symptoms reported among cancer survivors. Fatigue often causes feelings of being tired and weak, and lacking energy. This is very different than the tiredness a healthy person can experience. Cancer-related fatigue does not improve with rest alone and can significantly reduce quality of life. Studies report up to 50% of long-term cancer survivors experience persistent fatigue. Fatigue usually lessens when cancer treatment ends, but symptoms can last for a long time after. Continuing to feel this way can be discouraging for survivors of any cancer type, but it is normal, and recovery from cancer therapy and the related side effects takes time.

Fatigue can be due to a wide variety of causes such as the cancer itself, cancer treatment, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, obesity, lack of sleep or other health issues. Certain medications can cause fatigue as well. Cancer survivors should strive to eat a healthy, well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet and avoid foods with little nutritional value, processed foods, high-calorie foods, foods high in saturated fats, or foods high in added or refined sugars.

Exercise is one of the best ways to effectively combat fatigue. Cancer survivors should strive to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination.

Some additional tips to manage fatigue are to plan your day with short rest breaks, get involved in aerobic or strength-building exercise programs and prioritize the activities that are most important to you.

Here at City of Hope, we use a multidisciplinary approach to help patients overcome cancer-related fatigue. We have nutritionists available to help patients understand how to plan a healthy, well-balanced menu. Our endocrinology department also offers a weight-reduction program to assist patients dealing with obesity. Our Occupational Therapy Department can also help you deal with issues of fatigue. Speak with your doctor if you are interested in participating in any of these programs.