Tiredness (fatigue)


What causes it? 

  • The cancer itself
  • Low levels of red blood cells in the blood (anaemia)
  • Changes in the body’s metabolism
  • Side effects of treatment
  • Travelling for treatment
  • Coping with pain or other symptoms
  • Being worried or anxious about living with cancer
  • Depression
  • Sleeping difficulties

How to manage

  • Finding out what’s causing the tiredness can help you find ways to manage it
  • Gentle exercise
  • Red blood cell transfusion (for women with significant anaemia)

Tips for conserving energy

  • The following tips are based on the experience of health professionals and women themselves:
  • make sure symptoms such as pain are controlled properly
  • save your energy for things you enjoy doing
  • take things easy and break tasks down into manageable steps
  • try to get enough sleep
  • build in rest periods during your day
  • work out the best time of day for you to do things
  • organise some practical help before you start chemotherapy – help with childcare or making meals can give you more time to recover
  • encourage friends and family to have short, frequent visits rather than longer ones
  • eat a well-balanced diet
  • pace yourself and think about using aids or devices that will help you conserve your energy and help you get around more easily.

Fatigue and exercise

A normal reaction to feeling tired is to rest. However, research shows that exercise can help to reduce fatigue caused by chemotherapy and other treatments. Although it may not be what you would expect, exercise during and after treatment can help women feel less tired.

Exercise can also reduce the chance of weight gain and has been shown to help improve sleep, body image and mood. Gentle exercise like walking is ideal. Some women find that more strenuous exercise is also helpful. A physiotherapist or another member of the healthcare team can advise on suitable exercise programs.