We all experience fatigue, but cancer-related fatigue can be particularly distressing as it oftentimes is not relieved with sleep and rest. Approximately 80% – 100% of patients with cancer experience fatigue, and it’s the most common side effect experienced by cancer patients.
With the holidays upon us, it’s the season for socializing and spending time with family and friends. With it can come a flurry of activity that can wear out the most energetic of individuals. Finding a balance is especially important for those with a diagnosis of cancer. Continue reading →
Radiation therapy treats cancer by using high energy to kill tumor cells. Many people who get radiation therapy have skin changes and some fatigue. Side effects vary from person to person; depend on the radiation dose, and the part of the body being treated. Some patients have no side effects at all, while others have quite a few. There is no way to predict who will have side effects.
Skin changes may include dryness, itching, peeling, or blistering. These changes occur because radiation therapy damages healthy skin cells in the treatment area.
Fatigue is often described as feeling worn out or exhausted.
If you have bad side effects, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment you are getting.
Depending on the part of your body being treated, you may also have:
Hair loss in the treatment area
Mouth changes such as soreness, dryness and difficulty swallowing (if radiation to head and neck area)
Nausea and vomiting
Sexual impact (tenderness and soreness of genital organs if radiation to this area)
Blood count changes
Most of these side effects go away within two months after radiation therapy is finished.
Late side effects may first occur six or more months after radiation therapy is over. Late side effects may include infertility, joint problems, lymphedema, mouth problems, and secondary cancer. Everyone is different, so talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you might have late side effects and what signs to look for.
Be sure to get plenty of rest. You may feel more tired than normal.
Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Depending on the area of your body getting radiation (for example, the belly or pelvic area), your doctor or nurse may suggest changes in your diet.
Take care of the skin in the treatment area. If you get external radiation therapy, the skin in the treatment area may become more sensitive or look and feel sunburned. Ask your doctor or nurse before using any soap, lotions, deodorants, medicines, perfumes, cosmetics, talcum powder, or anything else on the treated area.
Do not wear tight clothes over the treatment area. This includes girdles, pantyhose, or close-fitting collars. Instead, wear loose, soft cotton clothing. Do not starch your clothes.
Do not rub, scrub, or use adhesive tape on treated skin. If your skin must be bandaged, use paper tape or other tape for sensitive skin.
Do not put heat or cold (such as a heating pad, heat lamp, or ice pack) on the treatment area.
Protect the treated area from the sun. Your skin may be extra sensitive to sunlight. Ask your doctor if you should use a lotion that contains a sunscreen.
Did you experience any side effects from your radiation treatment? What did you do to cope? Please feel free to share any tips to help others.
Fatigue is rarely an isolated symptom and is perceived by cancer patients to be one of the most distressing symptoms of cancer treatment. You might be physically tired, emotionally tired, cognitively tired or all three. This exhaustion is not proportional to recent activity and interferes with usual functioning.
At 84, Emanuel Tanay is far too busy to be tired. His diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer 7 years ago has by no means stopped him from doing what he enjoys, but symptoms and side effects from his cancer and treatment have slowed him down.
“My resilience is very low,” says Tanay. “In other words, it takes very little for me to get exhausted.”
Tanay has used strategies like medication, physical therapy and exercise to combat his fatigue. Here are other general strategies to manage fatigue:
Cancer-related fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and cancer treatment, according to the American Cancer Society. Research suggests that anywhere between 70% and 100% of cancer patients getting treatment have fatigue, and about 30% to 50% of cancer survivors have said that their fatigue lasts for months or even years after they finish treatment. Learn more about cancer-related fatigue and how you can fight it at mCancer.org.
Up to 96% of people treated for cancer report fatigue. But how you eat, drink and spend your day can reduce your fatigue and may even boost your energy levels. University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center dietitians offer their tips for fighting fatigue in the latest issue of Thrive, the Cancer Center’s patient publication.
Among their tips:
Eat small, frequent meals and include a protein-rich food with each meal or snack.
Stock your pantry with extra staples to avoid frequent, energy draining grocery shopping trips.
Keep high-calorie, high-protein nutrition supplements on hand for easy nutrition on the run, such as Boost Plus, Ensure Plus, Carnation Instant Breakfast or nutrition bars.
Try batch cooking. Ask family or friends to double a favorite recipe or do so yourself on high-energy days. Freeze individual portions for quick, healthy meals.
Keep healthy foods on hand that require little preparation, including pre-packaged pudding and yogurt cups, peanut butter, tuna fish, cottage cheese, eggs, string cheese and soup. (Select cream-based soups for added calories and protein.)
Visit Thrive to read the full story and get more tips on living better with cancer. Or, to schedule an appointment with a Cancer Center dietitian, call 1-877-907-0859.
NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute the University of Michigan Health System as the original creator and include a link to this article.