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Cancer Related Fatigue

Posted 10/30/2014

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  Fatigue is a common companion of cancer treatment. It seems rather sophomoric to say that virtually everyone being treated for cancer is tired--as in, no kidding, of course they are. The drugs make us tired. The stress makes us tired. The frequent trips to the hospital and multiple appointments and too much time in waiting rooms make us tired.

  For some people, the fatigue is annoying, but manageable. It may mean going to bed an hour earlier at night, taking a Saturday nap, not completing quite so many tasks during the day. For other people, however, the fatigue can be overwhelming and debilitating and a big life problem. Usually, energy returns when treatment is done, although no one feels back to baseline in the first month. It takes time, but the progress is almost always towards better health.

  Of course, some people find that the fatigue drags on and on. And people who are on "forever" treatment must find ways to live with fatigue. There are tricks, and this article from the UK version of WebMD talks about some of them:

Cancer-related fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue is common, affecting around 9 out of 10 people with cancer. The fatigue may be caused by the cancer itself, or the side-effects of cancer treatment.
What causes cancer-related fatigue?
Cancer treatments commonly associated with fatigue include:
! Chemotherapy. Any chemotherapy drug may cause fatigue, but it may be a more common side effect of certain drugs. Patients experience fatigue after several weeks of chemotherapy but this varies among patients. In some patients, fatigue lasts a few days, while others report fatigue persisting throughout the course of treatment and continuing after the treatment is complete.
! Radiotherapy. Radiotherapy therapy can cause cumulative fatigue (fatigue that increases over time). This can occur regardless of the treatment site. Fatigue usually lasts from three to four weeks after treatment stops but can continue for up to two to three months.
! Bone marrow transplantation. This aggressive form of treatment can cause fatigue that lasts up to one year.
! Biological therapy. Interferons and interleukins are cytokines, natural cell proteins that are normally released by white blood cells in response to infection. These cytokines carry messages that regulate other elements of the immune and endocrine systems. In high amounts, these cytokines can lead to persistent fatigue.
! Combination therapy. More than one cancer treatment at the same time or one after the other increases the chances of developing fatigue.

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