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  • Writer's pictureThe After Cancer

Fatigue: understanding the symptoms and ways to manage it

A cancer survivor dealing with fatigue as side effect of her treatment. She is using the after clinic to improve her quality of life.

One of the most common side effects of cancer treatments is cancer fatigue, a feeling of physical and emotional tiredness that can last for months. In this post, we'll explore cancer fatigue symptoms, what cancer fatigue feels like, and ways to manage it.

What is cancer fatigue?

Cancer fatigue is a multi-dimensional symptom that can have various contributing causes, making it a complex symptom to manage. It can show up in different forms and affect people with cancer differently. Some people experience fatigue during cancer treatment, while others experience it after completing treatment. Post-cancer fatigue syndrome is a type of cancer fatigue that affects people after cancer treatment, making it hard to perform routine activities. Fatigue can be challenging to manage and is often accompanied by other symptoms like pain, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping.

What does cancer fatigue feel like?

Cancer fatigue symptoms can manifest differently in each person, making it challenging to define what it feels like for everyone. Generally, cancer fatigue is described as a feeling of physical and emotional tiredness that doesn't improve with rest. People with cancer fatigue may feel a lack of energy, weakness, or exhaustion. The severity of cancer tiredness can vary and can be debilitating, making it hard to perform daily activities.

What causes cancer fatigue?

Cancer fatigue can have many contributing causes, including the type of cancer and treatment received, existing diseases, medications, living and working conditions, and mental status. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause cancer fatigue. Chemotherapy-induced fatigue, also known as chemo fatigue, is particularly challenging to manage, as it can be severe and long-lasting.

How to manage cancer fatigue?

While there is no simple medical treatment for cancer fatigue, there are many ways to manage it. Physical activity, such as moderate exercise, has been shown to boost energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve the overall quality of life for people with cancer. Exercise can also help prevent muscle wasting and improve strength and endurance. Cognitive-behavioral interventions, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and relaxation techniques, can help manage cancer fatigue by reducing stress and improving sleep quality. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a mind-body intervention that teaches people to be present in the present moment and non-judgmental of their thoughts and feelings. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. In addition to exercise and relaxation techniques, it's important to maintain a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help provide the energy and nutrients needed to combat cancer fatigue. Staying hydrated can also help prevent dehydration, which can contribute to fatigue. Getting enough sleep and establishing a regular sleep routine can help improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.


Cancer fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatments that can affect people with cancer in different ways. It's a complex symptom that can be challenging to manage, but there are many ways to alleviate cancer-related fatigue, including physical activity, cognitive-behavioral interventions, and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you're experiencing cancer fatigue, talk to a therapist to develop an individualized plan to manage it. Remember, managing cancer fatigue is an essential part of cancer care and can help improve overall quality of life.


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