Feeling tired (fatigue)
Fatigue or cancer related fatigue (CRF) is an overwhelming feeling of tiredness or exhaustion that is not relieved by rest or sleep. It can have a significant impact on your life.
Fatigue can be caused by the cancer itself, cancer treatments or other health problems. It is one of the most common side effects experienced by people having cancer treatment.
Know what to expect
As well as feeling tired, having fatigue can cause:
- difficulty sleeping
- trouble concentrating
- muscle aches and pains
- a loss of interest in sex.
Ask your doctor or nurse whether you are likely to have fatigue and what can be done to ease it.
Know who to contact if you have a problem
Ask your doctor or nurse:
- when you should call for help or advice
- who you should contact
- how to contact them (including at night or weekends).
Keep this information where you can easily find it.
Start a symptom diary
Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.
Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example in the resources provided on this page.
Plan your activities to control how and when you use your energy. Schedule times to rest and relax during the day, and ask for help when you need it.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (unless you are fluid restricted), and try to have a healthy diet. You can see a dietitian for advice about your diet. There may be a cost for this.
You may find that regular gentle exercise, yoga or meditation can help. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist can help you with advice about exercise. There may be a cost for this.
If fatigue is severe, you may have problems doing normal daily activities, and need to rest all the time.
Talk to your doctor. They can give you help and advice about managing fatigue. You may be anaemic, or have another problem that is making the fatigue worse. Your doctor may send you for tests to see if there is a medical reason for your fatigue.
Other health professionals who may be able to help you cope with severe fatigue include:
- occupational therapist
- social worker
- clinical psychologist.
Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.