Fatigue and Cancer

Author: OrthoBiotech Oncology
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Focus on Fatigue

[ Fatigue and Cancer ]

[ what is anemia ]

[ are you anemic ]

[ fighting fatigue ]

[ patient packet ]

Welcome to OncoLink's

This section highlights important information on fatigue and anemia and discusses the role of chemotherapy as a primary cause. You'll also find explanations on how anemia develops, how it is detected, and learn why it is so important for you to communicate your symptoms to your health care provider.

FOCUS on FATIGUE includes printable "dialogue" guides designed especially for cancer patients. These guides are useful tools to help assess your symptoms, track your fatigue level, and encourage conversation between you and your health care provider.

Fatigue—more than simply a little tired

Fatigue can be due to a number of things, such as anxiety, stress, or changes in your diet or sleeping patterns. And it can be more than just feeling less energetic than usual—especially if you are receiving chemotherapy.

Some feelings of fatigue, such as being tired after strenuous exercise, for example, are normal. But, the fatigue that many cancer patients feel is far beyond the normal. This fatigue is exhaustion. Not being able to do even the small things you used to be able to do, like taking the dog for a daily walk. And this fatigue doesn't go away after a rest. It's constant.

What really causes this powerful fatigue? It's not just the cancer.

For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, fatigue can be caused by a decrease in the number of red blood cells as a result of therapy. Just as cancer cells are killed by chemotherapy, so too are healthy red blood cells. As the supply of red blood cells continues to drop, anemia sets in. More than half of all chemotherapy patients develop anemia.

From the National Cancer Institute