Fatigue in Cancer: Strategies for Managing Tiredness

Fatigue in cancer

Understanding and Overcoming Fatigue in Cancer: Strategies for Managing Tiredness

Fatigue in cancer is a common and challenging symptom experienced by many individuals undergoing cancer treatment. It can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life.

Cancer-related fatigue is more intense and more difficult to manage than other types of fatigue. It is often linked to the disease itself and/or to the side effects of treatments. Solutions exist to reduce it, improving physical well-being and quality of life.

In this article, we will explore the causes of fatigue in cancer patients, its effects on their well-being, and practical strategies to overcome fatigue and regain energy.

What is cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue is chronic exhaustion that does not improve even after a night’s sleep.

It affects quality of life by affecting both personal well-being and interaction with loved ones.

It often causes the following effects:

  • simple physical exercises cause great fatigue (climbing stairs, walking, etc.);
  • a constant feeling of exhaustion, lack of tone and energy (asthenia);
  • difficulty concentrating and remembering;
  • dizziness;
  • insomnia;
  • increased irritability, nervousness, even depression.

In order to implement effective care, it is important to be able to precisely identify the causes of this fatigue.

Causes of Fatigue in Cancer:

  1. Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and other cancer treatments can cause fatigue as a side effect. These treatments can affect healthy cells and disrupt normal bodily functions, leading to tiredness.
  2. Anemia: Cancer-related anemia, characterized by low red blood cell count, can contribute to fatigue. Anemia reduces oxygen supply to the body’s tissues, causing feelings of exhaustion.
  3. Emotional and Psychological Factors: The emotional and psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, treatment-related stress, anxiety, and depression can contribute to fatigue.
  4. Sleep Disturbances: Cancer patients may experience difficulty sleeping due to physical discomfort, treatment side effects, or emotional distress, leading to ongoing fatigue.

Strategies to Overcome Fatigue

First of all, it is essential to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and to try to assess its intensity and frequency. The health care team can offer different tips for identifying and describing fatigue, for example, keeping a diary to note any fatigue felt and its context. There are no standard tools for measuring fatigue, the feeling being very variable from one person to another. Nevertheless, questionnaires can be proposed to gather all the information on the fatigue suffered.

  1. Energy Conservation: Prioritize activities and distribute them throughout the day. Take regular breaks, rest when needed, and delegate tasks to conserve energy.
  2. Physical Activity: Engage in regular exercise, such as walking, yoga, or light aerobic activities, to improve stamina, boost energy levels, and reduce fatigue. Consult with healthcare professionals for guidance on suitable exercises.
  3. Sleep Hygiene: Establish a regular sleep routine, create a conducive sleep environment, and practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and electronic devices close to bedtime.
  4. Balanced Nutrition: Maintain a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Proper nutrition can help combat fatigue and support overall well-being.
  5. Emotional Support: Seek emotional support from family, friends, support groups, or counseling services. Addressing emotional and psychological factors can alleviate fatigue and improve overall mental well-being.
  6. Stress Reduction Techniques: Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  7. Medication Management: Discuss with your healthcare team the possibility of medications or supplements to alleviate fatigue-related symptoms, such as anemia.

Examples of Fatigue Management Strategies:

  1. Pacing Activities: Break down tasks into manageable chunks and schedule rest periods in between to avoid overexertion. It is also important to set priorities, learn to slow down if necessary and accept help from loved ones.
  2. Continue a professional activity: depending on the treatments and the state of fatigue, it is possible to continue a professional activity, as this contributes to personal balance and to maintaining contact with others. Adjustments may be necessary to the rhythm (part-time) and the workstation.
  3. Improve sleep: the body needs regularity. Also, it is advisable to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
  4. Moderate Exercise: Engage in activities like swimming, cycling, or gentle stretching exercises to improve circulation, boost energy levels, and reduce fatigue.
  5. Relaxation Techniques: Try deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  6. Learn to manage your anxieties: the relaxation of the body and the mind will help to defuse the anxieties. Breathing exercises, stretching or meditation can provide relief. It is also important to have fun (especially in food) and to have fun (listen to music, meet friends, play games, read, go out, etc.)
  7. Supportive Sleep Environment: Create a comfortable and calming sleep environment by using comfortable bedding, adjusting room temperature, and minimizing noise and light disturbances.
  8. Mindful Rest: Incorporate regular short periods of rest throughout the day to recharge and restore energy levels.


Fatigue is a common challenge faced by individuals undergoing cancer treatment, but it can be managed effectively.

Whether in a personal or professional context, it is important to talk about and describe the fatigue felt. The healthcare team, relatives, but also occupational medicine are there to support you and provide appropriate solutions.

By understanding the causes of fatigue and implementing practical strategies such as energy conservation, physical activity, sleep hygiene, balanced nutrition, emotional support, and stress reduction techniques, individuals with cancer can minimize the impact of fatigue and improve their overall well-being. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals to tailor fatigue management strategies to individual needs and to address any underlying medical conditions contributing to fatigue.

List of all Cancers

The word “cancer” is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. We also speak of malignant tumors or neoplasms. One of the hallmarks of cancer is the rapid multiplication of abnormal growing cells, which can invade nearby parts of the body and then migrate to other organs. This is called metastasis, which is the main cause of death from cancer. Types of cancer (in alphabetical order of the area concerned):

Sources: PinterPandai, Cancer Research UK, National Cancer Institute (.gov), NHS inform

Photo credit (main picture): PourquoiPas via Pixabay

Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

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