What is the relationship between fatigue and cancer?
There are many reasons causing tiredness and fatigue in the 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 types of cancer could not swallow food or have a very low appetite to eat, hence they develop severe nutritional deficiencies and subsequently fatigue. The administration of chemotherapy, biologic agents, hormonal treatments and radiation is another major cause of fatigue in patients with cancer. Last but not least, sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety and depression which are not uncommon in most oncology patients, are major contributors to fatigue and tiredness in this patient’s population.
How would the oncologist identify the reason for fatigue?
It is imperative to the oncologist to identify what causes fatigue for their patients. In many, if not all cases with the 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, 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 of 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 the 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 has 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 started to develop tiredness, then one of the strategies to overcome fatigue is to modify the treatment 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 patient become fatigued?
There are many resources that help cancer patients getting through this 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.
Still has questions? Needs help?
Don’t hesitate to contact our clinics
Click on this link if you are living close by Hamilton, Niagara or Stony Creek
And on this link, if you are living close by Toronto
Our doctor will respond to you within 24 hours or less