Patient Guide

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Fatigue

Being tired is a very common experience for patients. Fatigue is a daily lack of energy, an unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness not relieved by sleep. There are a number of things that cause fatigue: intensive treatment, medications, a lower-than-normal number of circulating red blood cells, stress, decreased nutrition, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, taste changes, heart burn, diarrhea, disruption of normal resting and sleep habits, or feelings of depression. It usually takes time to work out ways to live with fatigue.

Emergency Signs and Symptoms

Your caregiver should call 911 IMMEDIATELY if you, the patient, cannot be awakened.

Urgent Signs and Symptoms

Call your Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) clinic or the after-hours phone number NOW if you are:

  • Dizzy
  • Too tired to get out of bed or walk to the bathroom

Important Signs and Symptoms

Report symptoms to your doctor or nurse during clinic hours today if you experience:

  • Worsening fatigue
  • Staying in bed all day
  • Other symptoms in addition to increased fatigue like:
    • Increased weakness or exhaustion
    • Drowsiness or confusion
    • Loss of balance
    • Having to catch your breath

What You Can Do At Home

There are ways to take care of yourself and deal with fatigue.

  • Establish regular rest and sleep periods.
  • Set up a regular daily schedule for nap and sleep times.
  • Keep active during the day to sleep better at night.
  • Play soft music or turn on the TV as background noise.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Ask a nurse or family member for a back rub to help you sleep or rest.
  • Keep a diary for one week to monitor fatigue levels. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
  • Conserve your energy.
  • Rest between bathing, treatments, and exercise.
  • Do things or be active only for short intervals.
  • Plan activities, such as exercise, visiting, or trips, when you’re feeling the most rested and energetic.
  • Decide on the most important activities for the day. Be realistic.
  • Exercise regularly. This helps reduce fatigue. It sounds contradictory, but it helps.
  • Eat snacks between meals to keep up energy.
  • Plan ahead and organize your work.