Although fatigue is common and one of the expected side effects of cancer and its treatment, patients should talk about such feelings with their health care team. There are times when fatigue may be a sign to an underlying medical problem. Other times, there may be a need for a medical intervention to assist in controlling some causes of fatigue.
Do note that cancer related fatigue is different from being tired. Sleep or getting rest most often heals tiredness unlike cancer-related fatigue that can persist despite getting good hours of sleep.
What’s the best way to cope?
The best way to combat fatigue is dealing with the underlying cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause may be unknown, or there may be multiple causes. So, when I talk to patients about cancer related fatigue, I focus on self-care and how patients can help themselves and it is my hope that these tips will benefit my readers too.
• Cancer patients should do (moderate) body work out: It may seem counterintuitive, but physical activity can actually reduce your fatigue. Studies done on cancer patients conclude that a little movement such as walking for at least 30 minutes three to five times a week, can reduce fatigue.
• Mind what and how you eat: Almost all types of cancer treatments may cause a patient to lose appetite while during this time, a patient needs good nutritious food the most. Therefore, control the loss of appetite and eat a well-balanced diet. At times, your diet may need to include extra calories or protein, such as milk, cheese and eggs.
• Making plan and priorities on what you do on daily basis: Some people may need to continue to work while on treatment, so they need to have energy for their jobs. After that, it is important to engage in activities that can be rejuvenating. This is very much up to the individual and could include activities than can be domestic such as light gardening. As much as possible, keep the activities that are enjoyable. Cut out the rest.
• Staying well hydrated also matters: Ask your health care team how much water you should drink. Plain water is best, but if you dislike plain water, try drinking flavoured water or adding a slice of acidic fruits like lemon or a fruit that has a taste you like.
Other decaffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids, such as milk, juice and tea, can also keep you hydrated. Try avoiding caffeine as it may contribute to dehydration, especially if you are not used to it.