Fatigue is one of the most disturbing symptoms of cancer. It is a form of physical and emotional exhaustion that cancer patients feel during the cancer crisis. Fatigue should not be mistaken for common tiredness which can be cured with a good night sleep or adequate rest. It renders cancer patients powerless, leaving them unable to carry out activities that they usually do before cancer.
It is more disturbing to know that this exhaustion remains during the treatment procedure. Medical studies show that some cancer treatment procedures also cause fatigue. Procedures like chemotherapy and radiation therapy or the combination of both leave patients fatigued. This article seeks to explain cancer-related fatigue and discuss ways of dealing with them, especially during treatment.
Causes of Fatigue during cancer treatment
The following are reasons why you feel tired or fatigued during cancer treatments;
Cancer itself causes fatigue. The debilitating tiredness is one of the early signs of cancer. According to a study carried out in Brazil, about 90% of cancer patients suffer from fatigue. Therefore, the primary cause of fatigue in cancer patients is cancer.
One of the popular treatment procedures for cancer patients is chemotherapy. This procedure involves the use of anti-cancer drugs to kill or control the growth of cancer cells in the body. However, during the process of killing cancer cells, the chemotherapeutic drugs wreak some havoc on the body system. Among the adverse effects of chemotherapy is fatigue. It has been proven that a lot of patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from fatigue.
Other treatment procedures, including radiation therapy and bone marrow transplant, also causes fatigue in patients undergoing them. More so, combining two or more treatment procedures, or starting one immediately after another increases the risk of fatigue in cancer patients.
This is one of the popular treatment procedures for cancer patients. Its action is more specific as it doesn’t kill all fast-growing cells, but the cells in the area irradiated. However, the procedure also damages body cells that are around the cancerous cells being irradiated. Fatigue thus sets in when the body tries to repair the body cells damaged during the radiation process. A lot of energy is required for the rebuilding of the cells, hence the exhausted and tired feeling.
This condition refers to an insufficient amount of red blood cells, a situation that can be caused by a cancer treatment procedure. It can also be caused when the production of red blood cells in the bone marrows is affected or stopped.
One of the symptoms of cancer is the loss of appetite, which can lead to poor nutrition as the patient feels reluctant to eat. This further translates into the inadequate supply of needed nutrients and energy to the body, hence causing fatigue.
Change in Hormonal Level
Although medical researchers are still ongoing on the subject matter, many medical practitioners believe that one of the reasons why cancer patients undergoing treatment feel tired is because of hormonal level changes. The different treatment procedures are believed to result in hormonal imbalance, and the process of making up for this imbalance drains the body of its energy.
Fatigue may be related to the body trying to recover from surgery. This is usually noticed in people who had to undergo surgical procedures for their cancer treatment.
Depression and Anxiety
Feeling anxious and depressed due to your state of health is another reason why you feel tired during cancer treatment. This is because these two feelings prevent you from getting enough sleep and rest that you need. Coupling this with the fact that cancer is draining, you are left exhausted and tired.
Coping with Fatigue Induced by Cancer Treatments
Now that you know why you feel tired during cancer treatment, here are some tips to help you deal with the tiredness.
The methods of dealing with fatigue during cancer treatments can be broadly divided into two; these are medical interventions and self-care methods. Regardless of the names of the methods, both approaches are medically safe and prescribed by medical practitioners.
This process is a coping strategy for fatigue caused by anaemia. Since fatigue, in this case, is caused by an insufficient amount of red blood cells, a blood transfusion will replenish the number of red blood cells in the body. This way, fatigue is reduced or cured permanently.
Drugs may help a cancer patient deal with fatigue during treatment. For instance, some drugs aid the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Using these drugs will help a patient suffering from anaemia-induced fatigue.
Moreover, medications can be used to treat cancer pain, which is another major cause of fatigue during cancer treatment. However, care should be taken with these types of medication, as misuse or overdose can lead to a more severe episode of fatigue.
Eat well, especially calories
The major source of strength in the body is food. The food we eat provides our body with energy and needed nutrients to carry out daily activities. This is also true for cancer patients. Enough food and balanced diets should be taken at all times. Meals served to cancer patients should be loaded with enough calories as they needed all the energy that they can get at that moment.
In a bid to ensure adequate digestion and utilization of food, essential multivitamins and minerals should be taken. These supplements and chemicals, apart from allowing for the natural digestion of food, also lead to the healthy growth of muscle mass, which promotes strength and stability in the body.
Among supplements that can also be used by cancer patients is Iron. This chemical helps the production of red blood cells, whose deficiency in the body causes fatigue. This supplement is advised, especially for patients whose fatigue is caused by anaemia.
Manage your Feelings
Among the typical feelings and emotion noticed among cancer patients is anxiety and depression.
Patients are advised to engage in activities that take their mind off the treatment and the negative feeling associated. These activities could include blogging, writing, painting, and any creative task that does not require the exertion of physical strength. They could get help from family members and friends who, by visiting them and giving them hope, can alleviate their fears and anxiety.
Cancer treatment procedures have many adverse effects among which is fatigue. Fatigue renders cancer patients powerless and unable to carry basic activities. Cancer patients can deal with the fatigue caused during the treatment procedures by using medical interventions and self-care methods.