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Coping with Fatigue

Fatigue is an unpleasant feeling of weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy that interferes with everyday activities. Persons with cancer may feel overtired or fatigued any time during the day, even upon awakening, and it may not disappear with rest or sleep. Some causes of cancer treatment-related fatigue are anemia, stress, insufficient diet, and sleep disruption. Although fatigue is an expected side effect, there are things you can do to cope with it.

  • Get some exercise.
  • Spread activities throughout the day. Take frequent rest breaks.
  • Save energy for the things you want to do. Let other people help.
  • Set up regular bedtime and waking routines.
  • Eat foods high in protein. Ask your doctor about seeing a dietitian if you are having problems eating.
  • Reduce your level of stress through hobbies, reading, seeing friends, warm baths, music relaxation tapes, support groups and meditation, to name a few. Ask your doctor about seeing a social worker or nurse for assistance with coping.
  • If you work, talk to your supervisor about your fatigue. If possible, do some of your work at home so you can pace yourself. Do tasks that require more attention when you are feeling energized. Take a “sick day” from work when you are very fatigued. Ease yourself back into work slowly after sick leave.
  • Report to your doctor or nurse fatigue that interferes with your daily activities. Medications and/or blood transfusions may be helpful.

© Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Revised 9/09

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