Fatigue is often confused with tiredness. A person can get over his tiredness after a good night’s sleep. On the other hand fatigue is a fall in energy level that cannot be regained even after sleep. It gets in the way of a person’s daily routine.
Cancer related fatigue is one of the side effects of cancer treatment. It comes suddenly after treatment and is often described as paralyzing.
What causes cancer related fatigue?
The exact reason is unknown. It may be related to the disease itself or treatment. The following cancer treatments are commonly associated with fatigue:
Any chemotherapy drug may lead to fatigue, but it may be the side effect of drugs like ‘vincristine’ and ‘cisplatin’. The patient experiences fatigue even months after chemotherapy, but it varies with patient.
Radiation therapy can cause fatigue that increases over time. This can last from three to four week and can continue for three months or a year after treatment.
More than one kind of treatment at the same time may increase fatigue in the patient.
What other factors contribute to fatigue:
Several other factors could contribute to fatigue including:
- Tumor cells competing for nutrients, often at the expense of normal cells.
- Decreased nutrition from the side effects like nausea, vomiting, taste change, mouth sores etc. can cause fatigue.
- Chemotherapy leads to anemia which provides the blood cell with less oxygen resulting in fatigue.
- Medicines used to treat side effects like nausea, pain, depression and anxiety can cause fatigue.
- Research show chronic or severe pain can lead to fatigue.
- Stress worsens feelings of fatigue. Stress can result from dealing with the disease and the ‘unknowns’ as well as worrying about the daily task.
- Fatigue may result when the patient is trying to maintain his daily routine and treatment together. Modifying daily routine can help conserve energy.
- Depression and fatigue often go hand in hand. It may not be clear which started first. One way to sort this out would be to understand the depressed feelings and how they affect the patient’s life. If the patient is depressed all the time or was depressed before the treatment or diagnosis of cancer, he needs to be treated of depression first. This would help the doctor to do away with his fatigue.