Munson Health
Cancer Fatigue

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by Cresse M

(Fatigue, Cancer)



Cancer and the side effects of treatment cause this condition. If your body is already weakened by cancer when treatment begins, then it is even more difficult to handle the side effects.
These conditions are caused by cancer or cancer treatment and can add to fatigue:
  • Anemia—due to chemotherapy, which can kill red blood cells and affect the blood-forming cells in bone marrow
  • Poor nutrition and dehydration—due to loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
  • Lack of oxygen—due to fewer red blood cells, which carry oxygen
  • Hormonal changes—due to hormonal therapies, side effects of treatment, or type of cancer, such as thyroid cancer
  • Other factors:
    • Lack of sleep
    • Depression
    • Stress
    • Pain
    • Side effects of medicines

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing cancer fatigue:
Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


Your doctor may prescribe:
  • Medicines to treat the underlying condition (such as anemia)
  • Antidepressants
  • Stimulants
  • Corticosteroids


Your doctor may advise that you participate in therapy. Talk with your therapist about whether cognitive behavioral therapy is right for you.

Home Care

Your doctor may recommend that you try these approaches:
  • Exercise:
  • Follow proper sleep and relaxation techniques:
    • Relax before bed by listening to music or reading.
    • Try not to nap for more than one hour.
    • Get at least eight hours of sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • To help you have more control, schedule time to:
    • Talk with a therapist to help you cope with your diagnosis.
    • Talk with your employer about your work schedule and workload.
    • Talk with a financial advisor to help you with your costs and to plan for the future.


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute



Canadian Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute of Canada



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11/4/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: Yennurajalingam S, Frisbee-Hume S, et al. Reduction of cancer-related fatigue with dexamethasone: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in patients with advanced cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2013 Sep1;31(25):3076-3082.


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