Fatigue is more than just tiredness. Everyone feels tired and can be reasonably sure to feel fine after a good night’s sleep. Fatigue is the kind of tiredness that is bone deep, which has no seeming reason and which is present even after rest and which can disrupt normal functioning and quality of life.
Cancer related fatigue is a side effect of the cancer itself or the cancer treatment that one undergoes. The causes of cancer fatigue are many:
The cancer causes muscles to weaken and hormonal changes due to which fatigue happens. The cancer cells compete with healthy cells to obtain nutrition for growth and it often deprives healthy tissue of sustenance, causing weight loss, slow metabolism and fatigue.
Some cancers also release into the body certain proteins that contribute to tiredness. The emotional upheaval that cancer brings with it, the stress and the anxiety can contribute to the tiredness.
Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep can mean that a person awakens un-refreshed. Certain medications can also be enervating and cause fatigue.
Chronic pain, another characteristic problem with cancer can be debilitating and this increases fatigue.
How cancer treatment causes cancer fatigue?
Chemotherapy is known to result in fatigue. While for some this may be short-lived, many find that the effects of chemo extend beyond the treatment. Many types of cancer treatment can lead to anemia since healthy red blood cells can also be destroyed along with cancerous cells. An estimated 70% of cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy have anemia and consequently fatigue.
Similarly radiation therapy also causes cancer fatigue which can be cumulative in nature and may last for months after the actual treatment.
The types of cancer that need bone marrow transplant can really take a heavy toll on the cancer sufferer since this is an aggressive form of treatment. The type of cancer fatigue that follows bone marrow transplant can last up to a year.
The cancer as well as its treatments can decrease a person’s appetite. There can be nausea or vomiting that makes a person less inclined to eat, taste changes and mouth sores, heartburn and digestive disturbances that further reduce appetite, adding to the fatigue.
It is important to combat cancer fatigue by eating well, exercising but not doing too much, taking frequent rest, conserving energy and using medical interventions if required.