Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fatigue: Cancer-related causes and how to cope

Causes of cancer-related fatigue

This is an area that I, as a complimentary practitioner can be of great value. This comes from a Mayo Clinic newsletter.

Fatigue may be caused by many factors, and the factors that contribute to your fatigue may be completely different from those of someone you know. However, possible contributing factors include:

  • Your cancer. Your cancer itself can cause changes to your body that can lead to fatigue. For instance, some cancers release proteins called cytokines, which are thought to cause fatigue. Other cancers can increase your body's need for energy, weaken your muscles or alter your body's hormones, all of which may contribute to fatigue.
    • Good basic nutrition can help mitigate some of this - I usually recommend whey protein if not sensitive to whey patients in active treatment because it is easy to digest, high in branch chain amino acids and has immune enhancing substances. I also recommend a good quality fish oil supplement. Depending on the type of cancer other supplements will vary.
  • Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, bone marrow transplantation and biological therapy may all cause fatigue. You may experience fatigue when chemotherapy or radiation therapy destroys healthy cells in addition to the targeted cancer cells. Fatigue may occur as your body tries to repair the damage to healthy cells and tissue. Some treatment side effects — such as anemia, nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia and changes in mood — also may cause fatigue.
    • Many side-effects and symptoms can be helped with acupuncture due to its regulatory effect on all the body's systems. Some chemotherapy regimens can be aided by specific nutritional supplementation.
  • Anemia. You might develop anemia if your treatment destroys too many healthy red blood cells. You can also develop anemia as a result of the cancer itself if the cancer has spread to your bone marrow and interferes with blood cell production or causes you to lose blood. Anemia may also result from unrelated medical conditions, such as thyroid problems.
    • Using herbs to treat anemias is possible. But certain steps need to be taken. Be clear on the type of anemia and if treatment of the anemia will influence the cancer itself.
  • Pain. If you experience chronic pain, you may be less active, eat less, sleep less and become depressed, all of which may add to your fatigue.
    • Acupuuncture far and away.
  • Emotions. Anxiety, stress or sadness after your cancer diagnosis also may lead to fatigue.
    • Acupuuncture far and away.
  • Lack of sleep. If you're sleeping less at night or your sleep is frequently interrupted, you may experience fatigue.
    • Acupuuncture far and away.
  • Poor nutrition. In order to work efficiently, your body needs the energy that a healthy diet provides. When you have cancer, changes can occur in your body's need for and ability to process nutrients. These changes can lead to poor nutrition, resulting in fatigue. For example, your body may need more nutrients than usual or it may not be able to process nutrients adequately. You may also take in fewer nutrients if your appetite wanes or treatment side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, make it difficult to eat.
  • Medications. Certain medications, such as pain relievers, can cause fatigue.
  • Lack of exercise. If your body is used to being on the go, slowing down can make you feel fatigued. Though you will have good days and bad days, try to maintain your normal level of activity if you can.