James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
There are medical causes of fatigue that may be treated effectively. Anemia, which is a low red blood cell count, causes a decreases in the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the bodies tissues. There are many causes of anemia, all of which are treated differently. Iron deficiency anemia can be treated with iron supplementation. Slowed production of red blood cells, which can be caused by chemotherapy or chronic illness, can be treated with medications that stimulate the production of red blood cells such as Procrit or Epogen. If the red blood cell counts are dangerously low, the patient may require a transfusion.
Hypothyroidism can also cause fatigue. This is easily treated with thyroid hormone replacement pills taken once a day. Depression can cause fatigue that can be managed with counseling and medications. Infections, which may also cause fatigue, may be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
A physician should evaluate the patient for any medical causes of fatigue. Fatigue is a common occurrence in the cancer patient. The various cancer treatments and emotional stresses are heavy burdens on the body. The body is waging a war against cancer and fatigue is a side effect.
Fortunately there are some simple things the patient can do to take charge of their life and minimize the effects of fatigue. Here are some recommendations: