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Tips on how to speak to your doctor about cancer fatigue

Way beyond tired...
And what to do about it now

 

You’re dragging. Wiped out. Your body feels heavy as a brick, it’s weighing you down. This does not feel like an ordinary case of being tired. It feels like exhaustion to the extreme. Different from general weariness that healthy men experience, this type of feeling is more of an overall draggy, concrete-like feeling that won’t go away. 

If you have advanced prostate cancer, you’ve likely experienced varying levels of fatigue at different stages of your condition and know what we’re talking about. When you’re fatigued, even doing the most basic daily chores, like walking to the mailbox, can downright exhaust you [1]. While this could be a result of age, cancer-related fatigue is worse than everyday fatigue [1]. Understanding the source of fatigue is important; while fatigue can be caused by cancer, it can also be caused by treatments [2]

Here is what you need to know about cancer fatigue, so you can talk to your doctor. 

BEYOND JUST TIRED, FATIGUE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL [1] :

  • WEAK
  • DRAINED
  • HEAVY

 

WHAT MAKES CANCER FATIGUE DIFFERENT? [3]:

  • IT IS NOT A RESULT OF EXERTION OR EXCESSIVE ACTIVITY
  • IT IS NOT ALLEVIATED BY REST OR A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP
  • IT CAN LAST A LONG TIME

How Long It Lasts

There’s no way to know if or when you'll have fatigue, how bad it will be, or how long it will last — cancer-related fatigue can last from months to years [3]. Therefore, it is important to keep an open line of communication with your healthcare team about your experience and when it is happening. Your healthcare team may recommend lifestyle changes, medication, or a treatment change to help you manage [4].

FATIGUE: TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT THE FOLLOWING TIPS

Fatigue can affect your mood, employment, daily routines, self-care, recreation, relationships, and your sense of self, but you do not have to take this lying down. In fact, you shouldn’t.

Here are some easy tips to help manage fatigue:

  • Remain active - although it’s likely the last thing you want to do – with movement, if even light activity, is a good thing and is recommended to bump up energy levels [4]. Of course talk to your healthcare team, about your plans for physical activity.
  • Prioritize what you must (or want) to do for the day. This way, the most important things (and maybe, most enjoyable ones) can be done when you have the most energy. 
  • Start slow and build back up, in terms of what you can do [2]. This may mean starting with a walk to the mailbox and building up to a walk to a neighbor’s house. 
  • Discuss your diet as well as plans for physical activity with your healthcare team [4].
  • Keep a record of how you feel each day for your healthcare team [2].

THE MOST IMPORTANT REMINDER

What’s most crucial to fighting fatigue and keeping it from bogging you down is to tell your healthcare team when you’re feeling wiped out [3]. Speak up so you and your healthcare team can figure out the source of your fatigue, whether it is caused by the disease itself, or by treatment, and work out a game plan to help you manage

REFERENCES:

[1] American Cancer Society. What is Cancer-related Fatigue? https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fatigue/what-is-cancer-related-fatigue.html. Accessed March 15 2017.
[2] American Cancer Society. What is Cancer-related Fatigue? https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fatigue/managing-cancer-related-fatigue.html. Accessed March 15 2017.
[2] National Cancer Institute. Fatigue (PDQ®)-Patient Version, Treatment for Fatigue https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/fatigue/fatigue-pdq#section/_40. Accessed March 15 2017.