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More than half of people diagnosed with cancer experience cancer-related fatigue (CRF). Many patients find CRF to be more distressing and disabling than other cancer-related symptoms such as pain, depression and nausea. The fatigue often begins before cancer is diagnosed, worsens during the course of treatment and may persist for months - even years - after treatment ends.

CRF can have a major impact on quality of life, with physical, emotional and economic consequences. People with cancer who suffer with fatigue typically feel mentally and physically defeated; many are hard on themselves because they're less active than they were before diagnosis or treatment. They typically describe CRF as overwhelming exhaustion that can't be overcome with rest or a good night's sleep.

As with other cancer-related symptoms, such as pain, CRF isn't necessarily an unavoidable part of your cancer journey. Medical treatment, regular exercise, good nutrition, psychological support, stress management and other lifestyle changes can help you feel more energized and better able to cope with fatigue.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has identified several factors that contribute to, or are intensified by, CRF:

  • anemia (decreased number of red cells)
  • poor nutrition
  • loss of physical fitness
  • sleep disturbances
  • emotional distress
  • pain and opioid analgesics pain medications
  • other health problems, such as an underactive thyroid; infection; problems with heart, lung, kidney, or liver function; or neurologic problems

More to Explore

Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free fact sheet Cancer-Related Fatigue Facts

Cancer Fatigue Video View Dr. Mike Evans' latest video which explains ways to manage cancer related fatigue.

last updated on Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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