Everyone has experienced being tired, but usually this feeling goes away after a good night’s sleep. Fatigue is an excessive feeling of tiredness that may not be relieved by extra amounts of sleep or rest. It may be related to cancer spread or it can be a side effect of treatment. Fatigue may lead to difficulty in performing everyday tasks, even simple self-care tasks such as bathing and eating.

If you are feeling fatigued, it is important to talk to your doctor because it is often treatable and controllable.

Causes of fatigue

  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Cancer treatment, especially when multiple treatments are used
  • Medications used to treat side effects such as nausea, pain, depression, and anxiety
  • The loss of lung function due to the disease
  • Anemia
  • Treatment side effects that affect nutrition (e.g., nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, taste changes, heartburn, and diarrhea)
  • Trying to maintain a normal daily routine. Sometimes changes can help conserve energy

Practical tips to prevent and manage cancer-related fatigue

  • Exercise regularly, as approved by your doctor.
  • Conserve your energy by planning tasks ahead, spacing tasks out over time, and asking for help.
  • Seek treatment for depression, pain, problems sleeping, or other conditions that may be adding to your fatigue.
  • Make sure you are eating enough food (especially protein!) and drinking lots of liquids.
  • Keep an activities journal and note your energy and fatigue levels at different times of day and with different activities. Finding patterns may help you to plan your day to minimize those activities that fatigue you the most.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Get plenty of rest, but don’t overdo it; short periods of rest are best.
  • Ask for help with tasks when you need it.