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Naturopathic Medicine Blog

Fatigue and Cancer Ontario Oncology Care

Posted Sep 10th, 2018 in Naturopathic Medicine, News, Tips

Fatigue and Cancer Ontario Oncology Care

What is the relationship between fatigue and cancer?

There are many reasons causing tiredness and fatigue in Oncology or Cancer patients living in Ontario such as the secretion of certain chemicals by the cancer cells that can cause fatigue, such chemicals are called cytokines such as the tumour necrosis factor (TNF) these chemicals can cause fatigue and tiredness.  Also, the body’s immune system secretes anti-cancer chemicals called interleukins such as Interleukin I and IV  these can cause tiredness as well. Other causes of fatigue are the negative effects of a tumour on the nutrition of the body ( as in cancer oesophagus or stomach) so patients with this type of cancer cannot swallow food or have a very low appetite, hence they develop severe nutritional deficiencies and subsequently fatigue. The administration of chemotherapy, biological agents, hormonal treatments and radiation is another major cause of fatigue in patients with cancer. Last but not least, sleep deprivation, stress anxiety and depression which are not uncommon in most oncology patients, are major contributors to fatigue and tiredness in this patient population.


How would the oncologist identify the reason for fatigue?

The oncologist must identify what causes fatigue in their patients. In many, if not all cases with cancer diagnosis, the causes of fatigue are many in the same patient, which makes the job difficult for the oncologist to identify the reasons for this fatigue. The best way to know what causes fatigue in oncology is proper history taking from patients, a full and focused physical exam and sometimes, ordering some relevant blood tests or investigations to aid the diagnosis. Nevertheless, on many occasions, the real reason for tiredness and fatigue in oncology remains obscure even in the hands of most experienced oncologists.

How to treat fatigue in oncology?

The most important step in treating tiredness in cancer patients is to identify the reason for fatigue. In many cases, the reason can be a tumour itself as mentioned before, so in this case, your oncologist would start immediately treating your cancer with the aim of cure or palliation but at the same time to deal with the tiredness you have from this disease. Cancer treatments themselves such as chemotherapy or targeted agents (biologics) can cause profound fatigue. If the patient is receiving chemotherapy or radiation and starts to develop tiredness, then one of the strategies to overcome fatigue is to modify the treatment the patient is receiving such as reducing the dose/duration of chemotherapy or radiation, or in severe cases, holding the treatment for some time until the patient completely recovers from tiredness.

What are the available trustable resources to look for when cancer patients become fatigued?

Many resources help cancer patients get through these tiredness problems. The most advisable one is to ask your treating doctor about what you are suffering from, and then he/she will direct you accordingly. Always ask Health Care Professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to guide you to the best and safest way to manage your fatigue.

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