What is cancer related fatigue?
Cancer related fatigue involves experiencing long lasting feelings of tiredness and exhaustion on a regular basis, a persistent condition commonly associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Experiencing fatigue can interfere with a person’s daily functioning, affecting the ability to go about their daily routine and complete all necessary tasks.
The effects of cancer related fatigue can be long term, some people reporting experiencing cancer related fatigue up to 5 years following finishing treatment. Many cancer patients report the fatigue to be accompanied by sleep disturbance, depression and anxiety
Approximately 30% of cancer patients experience persistent or chronic fatigue.
A combination of exercise, mindfulness techniques, focusing on improving sleep and energy conservation strategies have been found to be helpful in alleviating cancer related fatigue.
Energy conservation strategies
Energy conservation techniques are basically methods to apply to your daily routine to help you remain productive while managing your fatigue.
Here are some tips to conserve your energy throughout the day:
- Rest breaks: Schedule frequent rest breaks so there is time to recover following completing an activity
- Consider the time of day to do demanding tasks: Plan to do larger tasks when you are feeling low levels of fatigue. For some, energy levels may peak first thing in the morning and for others in the evening. Everyone experiences fatigue differently.
- Take your time to do tasks: Take your time to complete activities to conserve your energy. Rushing may exacerbate any fatigue you may feel.
- Simplify your task: consider how your task could be broken down and completed in ‘chunks’ with rest breaks in between.
- Sit while completing tasks: Standing consumes more energy. Where possible, complete tasks while seated. For example, sit while doing washing, bathing, dressing or preparing meals.
- Draw on your supports: consider delegating tasks to others that may be too energy consuming.
- Shop during quieter times: When there are less crowds in public, you are more likely to be able to park closer, queue for shorter times and complete your shopping faster.
In a study exploring cancer patients experiences with managing their fatigue and applying these energy conservation techniques, here were some common responses:
“Taking a trial and error approach to see what works is helpful”
“Doing a bit, then resting for a bit, works for me”
“I’m learning to recognise and live within my body’s limitations”
“My body needs rest, but I need a regime and I need to be working towards something and pacing myself”
Here is how one of our grant recipients plans to manage his fatigue while playing golf:
“I used my CGF grant to purchase a set of electronic Golf Buggy wheels, which will allow me to play golf easier and more frequently. The buggy wheels are remote controlled and take out the need to push the weight of the bag/buggy. During my treatment I have noticed that I fatigue quite quickly, and this accessory will allow me to continue to play the sport I love with less burden.”
Jack, recovering from Ewing’s Sarcoma
Listen to your body
When you experience signs of fatigue, ensure you stop the activity that you are doing if it is contributing to or worsening your symptoms.
It is important to note that for individuals with chronic fatigue, deteriorations might occur even when practising appropriate coping strategies.
Talk to your health care professional
If you are struggling to manage your fatigue, contact your relevant health care professional. Your doctor, occupational therapist or physiotherapist could help you with individualised strategies to manage your fatigue.
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