Q. I finished my chemotherapy for anaplastic stage IV lymphoma over a year ago, but I still must nap every day. Will there come a day when I will not be so exhausted?
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment and ranks at the top of symptoms reported along side of pain. More often medical experts focus on treating pain rather than fatigue because of the degree of discomfort for the patient. However, over the long term, fatigue can have an equally profound effect on quality of life for many patients. Simple activities of daily living can take longer, require more energy, and be debilitating. The end result is that people may retreat from many of the activities that brought them happiness prior to cancer treatment.
Fatigue is an expected side effect of chemotherapy and radiation and usually dissipates over time after treatment has ended. But in some cases, it can go on for years or become a chronic condition. There are three factors one needs to look at when addressing fatigue: physical, psychological, and emotional. Sometimes only one factor may be the cause of fatigue; other times it might be a combination. Interventions to combat fatigue can be pharmacological, behavioral or psychological. Integrative medicine practices (e.g., acupuncture, meditation and vitamin supplements) can also be utilized. Fatigue during treatment, or lingering well past, should be discussed with your oncology team and be explored with other medical specialists as needed. In some instances, the underlying cause of chronic fatigue might not be identified, but with help, people can find ways to adapt and still enjoy a full life.
To learn more about coping with fatigue, please watch Memorial Sloan Kettering’s informative webcast, Coping With Fatigue After Cancer Treatment and read CancerCare’s fact sheet, Fatigue is a Medical Condition.