April 24, 2018

Managing fatigue

Claire Mulvihill, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia

When living with lung cancer and other lung diseases there are a number of symptoms and side effects you may experience which can affect each individual differently. One of the most common symptoms is fatigue and although at some stage in our life most of us have experienced tiredness, that feeling normally goes away after a good night’s sleep. However fatigue is an excessive persistent feeling of tiredness that may not be alleviated by sleep or rest. It can affect the way you think and feel as well as making you feel more emotional than usual, and it can also impact your level of concentration and memory. Fatigue can also affect your ability to do everyday tasks such as taking a shower or making your dinner.

Major causes of fatigue include:

  • Cancer treatment, especially when multiple treatments are used
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Uncontrolled pain
  • Low red blood cells (anaemia)
  • Poor diet intake which may be a result of treatment side effects (eg. nausea or pain).

If you are feeling fatigued, it is important to let your health professional know about the level of fatigue.

Practical tips to manage fatigue:

  • Exercise regularly in consultation with your health professional
  • Plan for activities, pace yourself, break down tasks and ask for help
  • Allow yourself to rest when your body says so
  • Make sure you are eating enough food and drinking as much fluid, particularly water, as you can
  • Avoid caffeine before bedtime
  • Reduce alcohol in the evening
  • Try relaxation techniques before going to bed
  • Ensure your bedroom is not too hot or cold.

Make sure you talk to your health professional about these tips to determine which are suitable for your needs.