The physical, mental and emotional stress of cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy or hormone treatment can cause fatigue and other serious health consequences. Lack of energy is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its aggressive treatment. The experiences of exhaustion and tiredness are common side effects and should be recognized. Many times one should just rest or, if possible, get some sleep. One can have physical fatigue, mental fatigue or both. Both forms of fatigue can lead to headache and, less frequently, dizziness. Physical fatigue occurs when one has a hard time performing simple day to day physical activities; carrying, lifting, using stairs and, even, walking can be hard, as the muscles feel tired and weak. The loss of physical independence can also lead, many times, to low mood or depression. Mental fatigue, on the other hand, is experiencing confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating on typically manageable problems or tasks. Fatigue can lead to a wide range of conditions such as low motivation, irritability, insomnia and other sleeping issues, poor judgement, sadness or depression, loss of appetite, digestive upset, weakened immune system and more.
Complementary therapies, such as massage, acupuncture and mind-body techniques, such as deep breathing, and various methods of meditation, can help raise energy levels. A proper diet and regular exercise are also scientifically proven to fight fatigue. The challenge is finding the right balance and modalities that are the most helpful for each person. With any intervention, the key is to start off slow and gradually increase your efforts; it is important to listen to your body and don’t overdo it.