Top 5 Tips For Managing Cancer-Related Fatigue After Treatment

One of the most common side effects reported by young adults with cancer is cancer-related-fatigue (CRF). Studies also suggest that the experience of low energy, physical tirelessness and mental fatigue caused by cancer is more prevalent in adolescents and young adults with cancer compared with healthy peers and older adults with cancer. There are many common characteristics of CRF- it's distressing, persistent, not proportional to your activity and interferes with your everyday life…but there are things that you can do to combat this troubling side-effect.

Here are the top 5 tips for managing cancer related fatigue for young adults with cancer.

1) Educate yourself.

Knowledge is power. Learn about cancer related fatigue, why it is different from normal everyday tiredness and which strategies can assist with addressing it. Seek out reputable information from cancer information websites, treating centres and health professionals.

2) Move, move, move.

Keeping active (as much as is possible for you in your individual cancer experience) is effective in managing cancer related fatigue and it also has many other general health benefits. Aim to maintain some level of physical activity if you are still having treatment and seek advice from your doctor or an exercise specialist if you’re not sure of what you can and can't do.

Being active after treatment can be difficult when your energy levels are already low which is why it is important to start off with small manageable physical activity sessions and gradually increase the time, frequency and intensity as your energy levels improve and the cancer fatigue goes away. Getting support from an exercise specialist like an exercise physiologist, physical therapist or occupational therapist can be helpful if your CRF is preventing you from participating in work, study, university or your social life.

3) Plan, prioritise and pace.

Plan to do the more strenuous things in your day when your energy levels are higher. Prioritise things that you must do over the things that you don’t need to do and pace yourself. It can take time to re-integrate into your normal routine, especially if you have had lots of treatment over a long period of time. Be kind to yourself and allow time to recover after treatment is finished.

4) Be mindful.

Try some mindfulness exercises or other meditation/relaxation techniques. Speak to your doctor, social worker or psychologist if you want some guidance.

5) Talk to someone.

Share your personal experience of cancer-related -fatigue with your healthcare team or with other young people with cancer.

If you have any worries or concerns in relation to contents of this article please consult your medical team.

Andrew Smith (Occupational Therapist)
Olivia Doidge (Occupational Therapist)
ONTrac at Peter Mac Victorian Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Services
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre