Fatigue refers to a lack of energy that affects a patient’s ability to function and may cause mental distress. Symptoms include feelings of weakness, exhaustion, weariness, tiredness, etc., and may be psychological and emotional as well as physical. A patient may suffer from either acute or chronic fatigue. Acute fatigue is relatively short-lived, with symptoms both beginning and ending quickly. Chronic fatigue lasts much longer, resisting efforts from the patient to rest and recuperate.
Fatigue occurs in a large portion of cancer patients and those who have had cancer in the past, and may be due to a number of cancer-related reasons. Some common factors include medications, weight loss, diet, pain, breathing difficulties, anemia, tumors, fluctuating hormones, and insomnia. Anxiety, depression, and emotional distress may contribute to fatigue, either as a direct result of the cancer and its treatment or due to the psychological reaction to the diagnosis of cancer and the treatments involved.
Fatigue can also be a result of cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy requires increased energy from the body to repair tissue, which can deplete the body’s energy supply. Fatigue can be a result of chemotherapy, in which the patient may suffer from nausea, vomiting and weight loss and subsequent fatigue as a result. Diet and poor appetite may also be factors, as cancer may cause the body to require more nutrients or affect the body’s ability to process food. The patient may not be getting the necessary nutrients if they are eating less, which is often a result of cancer or treatment related nausea, diarrhea, obstructed bowels, or loss of appetite.
Related: anemia among chemotherapy patients.
If a mesothelioma patient suffers from fatigue, there are some ways to minimize its effects and bring the patient some relief. Planning and prioritizing activities allow patients to delegate nonessential or heavy tasks to family and friends, conserving energy. Allowing others to assist with tasks can lesson stress, which also helps with fatigue. Light exercise, such as a walk, is helpful, and can stimulate the circulation and help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help, as well as making sure to drink the recommended amounts of water.
Resting is very important, ideally in short naps taken throughout the day. It may be helpful to plan these rests into a daily schedule. Daytime resting does not replace a regular night’s sleep, which is also important in fighting fatigue. Avoiding sugar, caffeine and alcohol before bed can improve the quality and ease of a patient’s sleep.