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Fatigue

Man rubbing eyes because sleepy
Credit: iStock

What is Fatigue

Fatigue is an extreme sense of tiredness and lack of energy. It is different from simply being tired. It is distressing, and can be debilitating and interfere with usual daily activities. 
Fatigue can be caused by a brain or spine tumor, medications used to treat side effects, and is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. 

Fatigue may also involve the following signs and symptoms:

  • Cognitive changes: difficulty speaking or concentrating; short-term memory loss
  • Activity changes: decrease in physical activity
  • Life changes: altered work, play, or study habits; decline in family interaction
  • Emotional changes: feeling sad or grief

Ways to Manage Fatigue 

  • Keep a log of your fatigue and what you are doing to manage it daily using a journal. 
  • Energy conservation can help manage fatigue. To do so, mindfully plan your tasks and set realistic expectations to prevent wasting energy. Prioritize and space out activities. Delegate less essential tasks so you have energy for the things that matter most to you. 
  • Write down or log your fatigue symptoms so you can visualize when you have the most energy. Try to plan activities during the times you feel your best. 
  • Fatigue can occur with other symptoms such as pain, weakness or sleep disturbance. Be sure to track all the symptoms that you have.
  • Mindfulness and stress reduction practices can help with fatigue, such as meditation, journaling, or relaxation breathing. 
  • Ask your doctor about possible referrals to cognitive behavioral therapy or a registered dietician to help you manage fatigue.

Some self-care activities you can do to improve your pain can include diet, exercise, sleep, or medication

  • Try to follow the diet your doctor or dietitian recommends. Eating 5-6 small meals and snacks throughout the day may help keep your metabolism working and control your blood sugar so your energy stays more stable. Eating enough protein and calories can help you maintain your strength.
  • Pack small healthy snacks for when you are on the go, so you don’t find yourself feeling fatigued and without food.
  • Drinking enough water and fluids to stay hydrated can help prevent and improve fatigue – aim for 8 cups of liquids each day. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol. 
  • Daytime naps can help with fatigue. Try to nap for less than one hour so it does not prevent you from getting a full nights rest.

When to Report Fatigue 

Connect with your health care provider and discuss any concerns you have. Share your logged symptoms and self-care activities with them.

  • Ask your doctor when and how to report your symptoms to them and what is urgent to report. 
  • Report if your fatigue gets worse, if your fatigue is severe (>7), or your fatigue does not improve from your self-care activities.
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