What causes fatigue during cancer treatment?

Sometimes the exact cause of your fatigue related to cancer treatment may be unknown, but that does not mean that you and your health care team can't work together to help manage your fatigue. Some of the physical causes of fatigue are:
  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in how well your heart pumps blood
  • Changes in muscle or bone due to surgery or treatment
  • Changes in the hormone levels in your body
  • Changes in your immune function or the way your body responds when your immune system is challenged
  • Changes in kidney function so your body is not as good at clearing out waste products
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Symptoms such as pain or numbness in your feet that make it harder to move
  • Side effects of medications
  • Chronic pain
  • Inactivity
  • Poor nutritional intake or dehydration
Shelby A. Terstriep, MD
Studies suggest fatigue can be a frequent problem in cancer patients. There are many cancer-related causes for fatigue, some which may last months, or even years after treatment has ended. These include:
  • Low blood count
  • Hormonal changes
  • Nutrition problems
  • Chronic stress and other mood problems
  • Sleep problems

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.