Cancer-related fatigue, or CRF, often is described as paralyzing and often comes on suddenly and without warning


Fatigue is one of the most common and frustrating side effects of cancer treatments. While fatigue is often a result of the cancer itself, cancer treatments can also increase feelings of fatigue.

The American Cancer Society indicates that cancer-related fatigue can be more intense than a healthy person’s feelings of tiredness. Therefore, learning how to manage fatigue can improve quality of life for the millions of people battling cancer every day.

Cancer-related fatigue, or CRF, often is described as paralyzing. In many instances, CRF comes on suddenly and without warning and is not diminished by rest or sleep. Many of the therapies associated with cancer treatment are culprits in CRF. These include chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplants, and biologic therapies that include using cytokines to naturally attack cancer cells.

The National Cancer Institute states that CRF can affect all areas of life by making patients reluctant or unable to partake in daily activities. Those who miss school, work or social occasions may start to experience depression or other mood changes. These occurrences can lessen quality of life and affect self-esteem.

Doctors may help those experiencing CRF find relief. By learning when fatigue occurs, doctors may be able to pinpoint what is causing the fatigue and then treat it accordingly. For example, if the cause is connected to a certain medication, alternative drug therapies may be suggested.

CRF is sometimes linked to anemia. Medications that stimulate bone marrow to produce more red blood cells or blood transfusions may help with fatigue as well, according to The Mayo Clinic.

When CRF is linked to depression, anxiety or lack of sleep, doctors may suggest self-help techniques, talk therapy and medications that can treat the underlying condition to improve the patient’s physical and mental well-being.

In addition, modifications can be made around the home or office to help alleviate fatigue. Ergonomic changes, such as improving chairs, repositioning items so they are within reach or adjusting office furniture to reduce having to bend over or reach overhead, may help.

Fatigue is one of the more common side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Fatigue can have debilitating results, but patients can work with their physicians to find ways to alleviate fatigue and improve quality of life.

Read or Share this story: