By Nicole Parkinson, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia
When living with a lung disease or lung cancer, there are a number of symptoms and treatment side effects you may experience. One of the most common symptoms is fatigue. At some stage in our life, most of us have experienced tiredness, a feeling that normally goes away after a good night’s sleep. Fatigue, however, 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:
- Your lung condition
- Cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation and surgery
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Difficulty sleeping or poor sleep habits
- Uncontrolled pain
- Low red blood cells (anaemia)
- Poor dietary intake, often a result of treatment side effects (e.g. 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 a healthy, well balanced diet and drinking enough fluid every day (8 cups or 2L of fluid unless you are on a fluid restriction)
- Try eating small meals regularly to keep your energy levels up
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime
- Reduce alcohol in the evening
- Try relaxation techniques throughout the day and before going to bed e.g. having a bath, reading a book or listening to music
- 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.
Exercising with a lung condition
Lung Foundation Australia can connect you with pulmonary rehabilitation programs and exercise maintenance classes to help reduce symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue.