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Cancer and Fatigue



Fatigue may be defined as a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion caused by exertion. However, if you’re fighting cancer, this definition may differ. You might wake up feeling tired, with every muscle in your body aching. Or, it may seem like a heavy weight is bearing down on you. Because of fatigue, you may need to cancel an activity, or crawl into bed right away when you get home. As a result, it may be helpful to know what causes fatigue and how you can combat it.

Here are some ideas about what causes fatigue during a journey with cancer and how you can fight it.


Although it’s not known why fatigue occurs during a battle with cancer, it may be because of the proteins, called cytokines, that cancer releases. Fatigue may be caused by organ damage, muscle weakening, or hormone alteration. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biological therapy, or other treatments also may contribute to fatigue. They target cancer and healthy cells, making it difficult to stay energized. Anemia from the cancer, anxiety, insomnia, lack of exercise, improper nutrition, and other issues can worsen fatigue.

If you’re experiencing fatigue during your journey with cancer, let your doctors know. Your primary care physician should join with your oncologist to help you fight fatigue. They may recommend light exercise, such as the Livestrong program at a local YMCA.

Be sure you listen to your body and take it easy. Do what you need to do to conserve your strength for the things you need to do, especially going to medical appointments.

If you or someone you know is on a journey with cancer, reach out to Chix 4 a Cause. Learn more about our Gifts of Love program at chix4acause.org today.

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© 2019 by Nicki Odell.

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