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Tips for Managing Cancer Fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom affecting men with prostate cancer, and often it can be one of the most debilitating. It can be experienced as both a symptom of prostate cancer and also a side-effect of treatment. Men often describe it as a feeling of extreme tiredness, weakness, and a lack of energy. Cancer fatigue is more than just feeling tired. While rest and sleep may recharge most men, those living with prostate cancer do not easily feel relief from rest. While fatigue may be more difficult to treat than other symptoms like pain or nausea, there are some tips to help manage fatigue and provide some improvement.1

Stay active when possible

Staying active and exercising when possible can really help to improve fatigue. While some may think that exerting energy won’t help to combat fatigue, research shows it can be beneficial. Researchers have demonstrated that cancer patients who engage in regular exercise experience less severe cancer-related fatigue, improved well-being, improved functional status, and improved overall quality of life.2

Eat well and stay hydrated

Many people with prostate cancer also experience nausea, loss of appetite, or weight loss as a result of treatment. These symptoms can lead to a lack of nutrients and dehydration. Working with your health care team and/or a dietician can help ensure that you are getting the appropriate vitamins and nutrients and drinking the correct amount of water and fluids.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It is important to make sure you don’t expend unnecessary energy while you are battling fatigue. Friends and family may be willing to help out around the house, cook a meal, and run errands for you. It may be tough to accept help and you may feel like you’re a burden, but don’t be afraid to take loved ones up on their offer – they want to help!

Speak up at doctor’s appointments

Research shows that fatigue has been underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated in patients with cancer.3 This means that many men may just assume this is part of having prostate cancer and not worth mentioning to their health care team. However, there may be treatments to help! Your doctor may be able to address a problem that is causing some of the fatigue. For example, anemia may make fatigue worse. Treating this condition can help improve symptoms.

Try alternative therapies

Complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, have been shown to lessen fatigue in people with cancer. Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that uses thin, metallic needles inserted through the skin at strategic points on the body. Hypnosis may also provide some benefit to those experiencing fatigue.4

  1. Hofman M, Ryan JL, Figueroa-Moseley CD, Jean-Pierre P, Morrow GR. Cancer-related fatigue: the scale of the problem. The Oncologist. 2007; 12(1S):4-10.
  2. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Accessed online on 11/2/16 at https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_with_cancer/exercise.aspx.
  3. Berger, A, et. al. Cancer-Related Fatigue. J Natl Compr Canc Netw 2010;8:904-931
  4. Montgomery GH, Schnur JB, Kravits K. Hypnosis for cancer care: over 200 years young. CA Cancer J Clin. 2013 Jan;63(1):31-44.

Comments

  • RandyJ
    3 months ago

    After over 16yrs of fighting prostate cancer with numerous treatments I have had 5 chemo treatments over the last 15 wks. Lupron for 14yrs straight, cryosurgery, Provenge, 39 radiation treatments, Casodex, 3 treatments of high intensity radiation on my first mets, Xtandi study w/Mifepristone, Zytiga and now since it has spread to 8 areas of bone they put me on the chemo. The PSA had went up to 32 and after 5 chemo treatments it has only dropped 6 points. The chemo has really knocked the crap out of me. I’m telling the doc I need a break from it. I wake up tired and try to keep moving, but there is no gas in the tank. Psychologically, after being a physical fitness nut this has taken its toll.

  • ninaw moderator
    3 months ago

    @RandyJ, from what I’ve heard, 16 years is a long time for someone with your diagnosis. I’m sorry there wasn’t much response after the chemo, and now it’s created some really major side effects. I admire that you’re focusing both on your PSA scores and also your mental health (which is talked about further here: https://prostatecancer.net/living/mental-health-men/). The changes in self-image and personality are major for anyone diagnosed with PCa, especially a fitness nut like yourself. You reminded me of this article from Tom: https://prostatecancer.net/living/exercise-benefits/. Though he is still able to exercise the way he used to, he faces the idea of having to slow down. – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • Will Jones moderator
    11 months ago

    Eight months past surgery and cancer free, I find that mental fatigue from side effects – periods of demoralization from ongoing incontinence (though much improved) and ED, continued commitment to kegeling, some limitation of activities – is a challenge. There are days when I want nothing more than to be back to normal. I have to remember that the recovery period can last a year or more. Patience and vigilance are the keys.

  • sevensix
    11 months ago

    Today I finished my 39 daily IMRT treatments. The process was well tolerated although fatigue is a debilitating mother bear to be taken seriously. It is a miserable experience. Grab your closet friend and hang on for a very turbulent ride.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    11 months ago

    Congratulations on finishing the IMRT sevensix. Hopefully the fatigue (and no doubt some other symptoms) will start to improve now. When are follow-up tests scheduled? Please feel free to keep us posted on how you are doing. Wishing you the best. Richard (ProstateCancer.net Team)

  • sevensix
    11 months ago

    Hello Richard-
    Thank you for encouraging words. 8 weeks is a long time plus all the preliminary procedures. First PSA is scheduled for April although the results will be skewed from residual chemo (I opted for the six-month 45mg Lupron). Second PSA late summer should be accurate for diagnostic purposes. I am one day post-IMRT already dealing with sudden onset fatigue with no remedy to ease the miserable condition. What works for me is nothing; that is, do nothing and patiently wait for energy renewal forthcoming in about 10-14 days according to the literature. Fatigue hit hard at roughly the seventh week of IMRT and has almost been a daily treat since. Don’t fight it. Be patient, time heals.

  • PeeKaaFighter
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosed with BPH about 7 years ago and prescribed Alfuzosin 10mg HS. By hindsight, I probably had localized Adenocarcinoma all along, though it was diagnosed just last year.

    I have ascribed my feelings of fatigue to intake of Alfuzosin rather than the carcinoma. The point being, it may be difficult for many patients to be able to confirm whether medication or the disease itself is the source of fatigue.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi PeeKaaFighter. Sorry you had these diagnostic issues. Fatigue is absolutely one of the most difficult symptoms to determine cause and to treat. My wife was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at two years old and has always had to deal with the issue you mention – is it the disease or the treatment. Hopefully, now that you have a proper diagnosis you can complete treatment, rehab, and see improvements in fatigue levels. Best, Richard (ProstateCancer.net Team)

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    That’s an excellent point, @peekaafighter. In my experience, it’s hard for even doctors to assign a cause to various symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for us to hear about being misdiagnosed with a different prostate issue before prostate cancer. Thanks for bringing these points to the community. – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

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