- Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: A Guide for Patients and Families
- Anxiety and fear
- Appetite, poor
- Blood counts
- Blood in stool
- Blood in urine
- Fluids and dehydration
- Grooming and appearance
- Hair loss
- Leg cramps
- Mouth, bleeding in
- Mouth dryness
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Scars and wounds
- Shortness of breath
- Skin color changes
- Skin dryness
- Skin (pressure) sores
- Sleep problems
- Steroids and hormones
- Stomas (or ostomies)
- Swallowing problems
- Treatment at home
- Tubes and IV lines
- Weight changes
- When death is approaching
- To learn more
Fatigue is when a person has less energy to do the things they normally do or want to do. It is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. Cancer treatment fatigue is different from that of everyday life. Fatigue related to cancer treatment can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming. It is not relieved by rest. It can last for months after treatment ends. This type of fatigue can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including the ability to do their usual activities.
Cancer fatigue is real and should not be ignored. It can be worse when a person is dehydrated, anemic, in pain, not sleeping well, or has an infection. (See the sections on fluids and dehydration, blood counts, pain, sleep problems, and fever.) Recent studies have shown that exercise programs during treatment can help reduce fatigue.
What to look for
- Feeling like you have no energy
- Sleeping more than normal
- Not wanting to or not being able to do normal activities
- Paying less attention to personal appearance
- Feeling tired even after sleeping
- Trouble thinking or concentrating
- Trouble finding words and speaking
What the patient can do
- Balance rest and activities.
- Tell the doctor if you’re not able to get around as well as usual.
- Plan your important activities for when you have the most energy.
- Schedule important activities throughout the day rather than all at once.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Short naps and rest breaks may be needed.
- Remember that fatigue caused by treatment is short term and that your energy will slowly get better after treatment has ended.
- Ask others to help you by cooking meals and doing housework, yard work, and errands.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes protein (meat, eggs, cheese, and legumes such as peas and beans), and drink about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, unless your care team gives you other instructions.
- See the section called "Exercise."
What caregivers can do
- Help schedule friends and family members to prepare meals, clean house, do yard work, or run errands for the patient.
- Try not to push the patient to do more than they are able.
- Help the patient set up a routine for activities during the day.
Call the doctor if the patient:
- Is too tired to get out of bed for more than a 24-hour period
- Becomes confused (see the section called "Confusion") or cannot think clearly
- Has trouble sleeping at night
- Has fatigue that keeps getting worse
- Feels out of breath or has a racing heart after only a small activity
Last Medical Review: 03/24/2011
Last Revised: 08/11/2011