What is Cancer Related Fatigue?
Cancer related fatigue (CRF- sometimes simply called “cancer fatigue”) is one of the most common side effects of cancers and its treatment. It is often described as “paralyzing.” Usually, it comes on suddenly, does not result from activity or exertion, and is not relieved by rest or sleep. It may not end – even when treatment is complete.
Energy Conservation During cancer Fatigue:
- Balance periods of rest and work.
- Rest before Fatigue
- Frequent, short rests are beneficial
Identify effects of your environment that may cause cancer-related fatigue:
- Avoid extreme temperature.
- Eliminate smoke of noxious flames
- Avoid long, hot showers or baths.
- Decide what activities are important to you, and what could be delegated.
- Use your energy on important tasks.
Nutrition to combat cancer fatigue:
Basic Calorie needs:
- Estimated calorie needs for person with cancer is 15 calories per pound of weight if your weight has been stable. Add 500 calories per day if you have lost weight.
- Example: A person who weighs 150lbs needs about 2250 calories per day to maintain weight.
Protein rebuilds and repairs damaged (and normally aging) body tissue:
- Estimated protein needs are 0.5-0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Example: A 150lb person needs 75-90 grams of protein per day.
- The best sources of protein include foods from the dairy group (8 oz. milk = 8 grams protein) and meats (meat, fish, poultry = 7 grams of protein per ounce).
- A minimum of 8 cups of fluid per day will prevent dehydration (that is 64 ounces, 2 quarts, or 1 half-gallon)
- Fluids can include juice, milk, broth, milkshake, jello, and other beverages. Of course water is fine too.
- Beverages containing caffeine do not count.
- Fluid losses from excess vomiting or diarrhea will require extra fluids.
Cancer Related Fatigue and Exercise:
Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of illness or of treatment, can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop anxiety, depression, weakness, fatigue, and nausea. Regular moderate exercise can prevent these feelings, and help a person feel energetic and stay active. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercise. Any kind of exercise is OK. Walking, stationary bike, or swimming (if the immune system is OK) are examples of types of exercise.
Talk to your Health Care Providers:
- Fatigue that limits your ability to care for yourself
- Increasing shortness of breath with minimal exertion
- Uncontrolled Pain
- Inability to control side effects from treatments (i.e. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite)
- Uncontrollable anxiety or nervousness
- Ongoing depression
There is not single medication available to treat fatigue. However, there are medications available that can treat some of the underlying causes. Make sure you speak with your health care professional here at Charleston Hematology Oncology Associates if you are feeling fatigued.