Did you know fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment? Research suggests that most people receiving cancer treatment experience some type of fatigue.[i] In fact, between 60 and 90 percent of patients at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have fatigue.
Tag Archives: fatigue
by Anne Katz, PhD, RN
This Monthly Survivorship Series, written by CKN Survivorship Editor, Anne Katz, is provided by CKN with permission from ONS. We hope this series will become a useful resource that will help to facilitate dialogue between cancer patients, their loved ones and their physicians with a view towards improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.
Most of us can relate to what it feels like to be tired … some of us are nurses, others physicians and many of us work (or have worked) the night shift. Some of us are female and have been pregnant and remember the exhaustion of that first trimester followed 36 weeks later by the weeks and months of caring for a new baby.
Cancer survivors know the overwhelming fatigue — physical and mental — that accompanies treatment and that may persist long after treatment is over. Radiation is the number one culprit that causes fatigue and the lingering of this side effect often comes as a surprise; people often assume that once treatment is over, the side effects just disappear.
Some strategies that have been shown to improve sleep are: avoiding late afternoon or long naps; limiting time in bed to actual sleeping and not watching TV in bed before sleep; going to bed only when sleepy; setting a consistent time for going to sleep and waking up; avoiding caffeine, sodas and other stimulants in the evening; and establishing a pre-sleep routine that is used consistently. This is commonly called sleep hygiene and is a way to avoid sleep medication that can be addictive.
Exercise has been empirically shown to help with cancer-related fatigue and while there is less evidence for interventions such as massage, therapeutic touch and relaxation exercises, these may be helpful as well. While it sounds counter-intuitive to exercise when you are exhausted, regular moderate exercise has been shown to increase energy levels and improve overall well being.
How do you prepare your patients for the inevitable fatigue from radiation therapy? What suggestions do you make to help them with this side effect of treatment? Please share your practice experience with readers of this blog so that we can all improve the care of our patients.
Historically, patients diagnosed with cancer have been instructed to minimize physical activity, conserve energy, and ask for assistance with activities of daily living due to the fatigue associated with cancer and its treatment side effects. 1,2 This “prescribed” immobility has physiologic consequences including a decrease in cardio-vascular/pulmonary capacity, lean body mass, bone density, muscle strength, ability to fight infections, and memory, and an increase in pain and adipose tissue- leading to a synergistic effect on fatigue.2,3
By Julie Silver, MD
Here at the Cancer Knowledge Network, we are excited to bring you information about cancer rehabilitation. Cancer rehabilitation is an important part of the oncology care continuum. This is an area of medicine that has dedicated healthcare professionals such as board certified physicians (called physiatrists) and licensed allied healthcare providers (e.g., physical/occupational/speech therapists, nurses, etc.). Mental health professionals are also key members of the “rehabilitation team”. Frequently, others may be included as well (e.g., yoga instructors, massage therapists, orthotists, etc.).
Ideally, cancer rehabilitation services should be offered to survivors when they have problems functioning. Indeed, the rehabilitation professional’s code is “focus on function.” Medically speaking, this means intervening when individuals are suffering from problems such as weakness, fatigue, pain, lymphedema, difficulty speaking or swallowing, decreased attention or memory, and a host of other issues. Rehabilitation medicine interventions can significantly help survivors with a broad range of problems that they may be experiencing due to cancer and/or cancer treatments. The goal is always to help them function at a higher level—with as little pain, fatigue and disability as possible—regardless of what type of cancer they have or had.
Cancer rehabilitation interventions have been studied fairly extensively, and Cancer Knowledge Network will be highlighting what is often called “evidence-based” medicine. Part of insuring that cancer survivors receive the best possible care is to understand the research that has been done to date in the field of cancer rehabilitation. The next step is applying this research to clinical practice in order to help cancer survivors have the best quality of life possible.
We asked our Current Oncology Section Editors how they would define the term “life after cancer” and how that theme presents itself in their chosen fields. Below is a response from Dr. Karin Olson, Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta.
My work has been focused on the management of symptoms during [cancer] treatment but I am gradually beginning to study symptoms that continue following the completion of treatment.