Thanks to advances in cancer treatment, patients today experience fewer debilitating side effects from treatment. However, cancer-related fatigue remains one of the most common side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. The fatigue occurs in 70 to 100 percent of patients, especially those undergoing treatment. It appears suddenly and can be overwhelming. Rest does not necessarily relieve the fatigue.
Cancer-related fatigue affects many aspects of daily life, including mood and emotions, and can interfere with normal functioning. Thirty to 75 percent of cancer survivors report fatigue continuing for months, even years, after treatment is completed.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat the fatigue. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that patients be systematically screened—at their first visit, during treatment and after. It’s important the physician know how tired the patient feels.
Some causes of cancer-related fatigue are treatable, such as anemia, pain, sleep disturbance, side effects from medications and emotional distress. Again, it’s important to consult with your doctor.
You also need to prioritize adequate quality sleep and a healthy diet. One of the best ways to reduce fatigue is to increase activity and to exercise. Try to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, if possible. You can walk, run or ride a bicycle. Try also to incorporate strengthening exercises two to three days a week.
Alegent Creighton Health has a Cancer Rehabilitation Exercise Class that meets two days a week and incorporates cardiovascular, strengthening, balance and flexibility exercises into the class. You can get more information by contacting me–Susan Bruggeman–at (402) 398-6190.
Alegent Creighton Health has a cancer-related fatigue support group that meets the third Thursday of every month, except in June and December, for education, discussion and support. For more information, contact: Susan Bruggeman at (402) 398-6190.
Other options are Yoga, T’ai Chi and our Healthy Steps therapeutic exercise program for patients who have had breast surgery, node dissection, radiation, chemotherapy or who suffer from chronic fatigue. The program helps increase range of motion and balance, decreases “frozen shoulder,” pain and depression and reduces limb swelling. For more information, call 1-800-ALEGENT.
By Susan Bruggeman, physical therapist