How Is Cancer Fatigue Managed Or Treated
The first step in treating fatigue is knowing the problem exists. Many people don’t bother to mention fatigue to their doctors because they believe it is normal. It’s vital that you discuss this and all symptoms or side effects with your healthcare provider. Then, efforts can be directed at determining the cause of the problem and prescribing appropriate treatment. Your particular cancer treatment regimen, with its known side effects, may provide clues for your doctor or health care professional. A simple blood test, for example, can determine if you are anemic.
There is no single medication available to treat fatigue. However, there are medications available that can treat some of the underlying causes.
When youre struggling, you may want to see a palliative care specialist. These experts help people with cancer manage symptoms like pain, nausea and depression.
Your provider or palliative care team may recommend these actions to ease fatigue:
What Nutrients Are Most Important In Cancer
Good nutrition is all about getting the balance right – the balance of nutrients that a patients body needs to function well, to cope with treatment and to keep as active as possible. However, in cancer, some nutrients are particularly important:
- Protein: important for building and repairing body cells, getting enough protein is important for cancer patients wanting to maintain or regain lean body mass. International guidelines recommend cancer patients consume almost twice the amount that a healthy person needs 10
- Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: with anti-inflammatory properties, this nutrient can help stabilize or improve appetite, food intake, lean body mass and body weight10
- Micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements: cancer patients often have micronutrient deficiencies due both to reduced food intake and the aggressive nature of some treatments11,12
- Dietary fibre: essential to a balanced diet, cancer patients can benefit from consuming the right quality of fibre to improve stool consistency, especially those who are suffering from diarrhoea as a side effect of their radiotherapy or chemotherapy13
On Some Days Its Enough To Just Eat
Ideally, Ms. Stella explains, patients currently undergoing treatment will use a modified version of the USDAs MyPlate icon to guide their nutritional intake. But instead of splitting the plate down the middle with protein and carbohydrates occupying one side and fruits and vegetables on the other these patients should aim for a peace sign consisting of equal portions of fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, and lean protein. Its beneficial for cancer patients to increase the amount of protein they eat, since adequate protein intake is particularly important to avoid losing lean muscle mass when dropping weight.
This goal changes, however, when patients dont feel well enough to eat much of anything.
For those having difficulty maintaining their weight, it can get to the point where any calorie is really more important than being picky about food choice, Ms. Stella says. Too much concern about types of food can give the patient a lot of anxiety. Just eat.
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Testing To Determine The Cause
If you have symptoms of decreased appetite and weight loss, then your health care provider will perform a physical examination and may carry out other tests to find out what is causing the symptoms.1,2 If you also have problems or changes related to urination, then laboratory tests may be used on a sample of your urine to check for signs of infection or other issues. Cystoscopy is a procedure that may be used to examine the inside of the bladder and the urethra the tube-like organ that connects to the bladder and allows urine to be excreted and can also be used to take tissue samples for further testing.
Undertaking The Literature Review
The aim of this literature review was to better understand patients experience of cancer-related weight loss and its impact on quality of life.
A systematic search of the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Medline and British Nursing Index databases was conducted using the following keywords and phrases: cancer, carcinoma, cachexia, weight loss, quality of life, patient experience, patient attitude and patient perceptions. Thirty-seven research articles, relevant to the topic under investigation, were identified. Abstracts were read to identify those articles most relevant to the topic area.
Articles were included if they were:
- Did not also focus on other symptoms or causes of weight loss.
Eight articles were critically appraised using a validated critical appraisal framework . Of these, three used qualitative research methods three used a mixed-method approach and two used quantitative methods . Findings were analysed using a thematic-analysis approach , with themes grouped into five categories:
- Personal response
- Effects on emotions and mood
- Effects on social life.
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Dont Restrict Yourself To Certain Foods
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause a host of side effects that make it difficult or unpleasant to eat, including nausea, taste changes, and mouth sores, among other things. But many patients, as soon as they receive a cancer diagnosis, decide to restrict their diets in hopes of offsetting years of bad eating habits, Ms. Stella explains.
All of a sudden theyre going vegetarian, saying theyll never eat sugar again, or everything has to be organic, she says. But they dont know how chemo or radiation will affect them, and then they start struggling. Its not a good idea to restrict your diet when treatment already cuts down on what youll want or be able to eat.
Research suggests that eating a variety of foods is better for your health, Ms. Gerdes adds. Unless your doctor advises you to avoid specific foods for medical reasons, you should not restrict certain foods or nutrients, since they may not change the course of your cancer.
How Does A Patients Body Mass Index Affect Treatment Success
The optimal chemotherapy dose for a patient is based on, amongst other factors, weight and height, also known as body mass index . Any changes in a patients weight from when they were first diagnosed can have a direct and negative impact as the patient may no longer be able to tolerate the full dose more seriously, a significant reduction in BMI could delay treatment altogether7-9. By maintaining good nutritional intake, patients can help reduce the risk of losing additional muscle weight in the future, helping to ensure the body can tolerate the optimum treatment dose.
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Weight Loss And Fatigue Cancer
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Unexplained Loss Is Often The First Sign Of Disease
Many people would consider a weight loss without dieting or exercise a pleasant surprise. But when the loss is sudden and unexplained, it could be the first warning sign of a serious health issue. This is especially true for those experiencing loss of more than five percent of body weight over the course of several months.
Weight loss is common among people with cancer and often the very first sign of the disease. On its own, it cannot diagnose cancer but will often suggest to healthcare providers that tests be performed to, at the very least, exclude cancer as a cause.
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How Long Does Cancer Fatigue Last
Everyones experience with cancer fatigue is unique. For some people, fatigue lasts a few weeks. Others may feel exhausted for years. You may feel better when your cancer treatments stop, but often fatigue lingers.
- Bone marrow transplants can cause prolonged fatigue that lasts up to a year.
- Radiation therapy fatigue often gets worse as treatments progress. Fatigue should lessen a few months after you stop treatment.
- Surgery tends to cause temporary fatigue that goes away after you recover.
- Systemic treatments can cause fatigue that comes and goes. These treatments include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. You may be exhausted while taking the medications and feel better during the recovery phase . When treatment resumes, you feel exhausted again. You should have more energy when you finish the treatment.
Symptoms Caused By Low Numbers Of Blood Cells
Many signs and symptoms of AML are the result of a shortage of normal blood cells, which happens when the leukemia cells crowd out the normal blood-making cells in the bone marrow. As a result, people don’t have enough normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets. These shortages show up on blood tests, and they can also cause symptoms.
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Weight Loss And Cancer
Weight loss is common in people with cancer. It might be one of the reasons why you first go to the doctor.
There are several causes of weight loss and your doctor can treat many of these.
Losing weight is often associated with a loss of appetite. But this is not the only cause. For people with cancer, other causes are:
- feeling and being sick
- difficulty swallowing
- feeling full because of a swollen liver
- a blocked bowel
- high levels of calcium in the blood
- not being able to absorb nutrients from food
Can A Dietitian Help Me Fight Cancer Fatigue
Dietitians can provide suggestions to work around any symptoms that may be interfering with caloric intake. They can help you find ways to take in calories despite an early feeling of fullness, swallowing difficulty or taste changes. Dietitians can also suggest ways of maximizing calories and proteins in smaller amounts of food. They may suggest powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks and other commercial supplements or food additives.
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Seeing A Healthcare Provider For Fatigue
When your chief complaint is fatigue, cancer isn’t likely to be the first thing on your healthcare provider’s mind. Fatigue is related to many other conditions, and your healthcare provider will want to rule out the most common causes first.
This will be accomplished through a physical and routine blood work. Your healthcare provider will likely order a few different blood tests, especially tests to check on your thyroid function.
During your visit, your healthcare provider may ask several questions relating to your quality of life and what factors may contribute to your fatigue. Possible questions include:
- How many hours do you work? Are you stressed at work?
- Have you had any major life changes, such as marriage, birth, or death?
- How often do you exercise?
- Do you sleep well? How much sleep do you get?
- How is your diet?
- Do you have a family history of thyroid disease?
It is important to remember that fatigue is not exclusive to cancer. If you are experiencing fatigue, it may be related to a less serious condition or have a lifestyle cause.
What Are The Complications Of Cancer Fatigue
Persistent fatigue can interfere with your ability to participate in lifes activities. You may miss out on time with family and friends. It can affect your ability to concentrate and think clearly. Some people are too exhausted to continue working.
As many as 1 in 4 people with cancer develop depression. Sometimes, its hard to determine if fatigue leads to depression or vice versa.
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Symptoms From Low White Blood Cell Counts
Infections can occur because of a shortage of normal white blood cells , specifically a shortage of infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils . People with AML can get infections that dont seem to go away or may get one infection after another. Fever often goes along with the infection.
Although people with AML can have high white blood cell counts due to excess numbers of leukemia cells, these cells dont protect against infection the way normal white blood cells do.
Symptoms Caused By High Numbers Of Leukemia Cells
The cancer cells in AML are bigger than normal white blood cells and have more trouble going through tiny blood vessels. If the blast count gets very high, these cells can clog up blood vessels and make it hard for normal red blood cells to get to tissues. This is called leukostasis. Leukostasis is rare, but it is a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away. Some of the symptoms are like those seen with a stroke, and include:
- Weakness in one side of the body
- Slurred speech
When blood vessels in the lungs are affected, people can have shortness of breath. Blood vessels in the eye can be affected as well, leading to blurry vision or even loss of vision.
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When Should I See A Doctor
Most cases of unexplained weight loss arent caused by cancer. Still, its a good idea to follow up with your healthcare provider about any significant weight loss that cant be explained by changes in your diet or activity levels.
Generally, losing more than 5 percent of your body weight within 6 to 12 months warrants a visit. And if youre an older adult with other health issues, even a smaller amount of weight loss may be reason to see your healthcare provider.
Your provider will begin by taking your medical history, including any medications you are taking. Urine and blood tests, as well as imaging scans, can find signs of cancer or another condition that may be behind your weight loss.
Seek immediate treatment if your weight loss is accompanies by any of the following symptoms:
- inability to swallow solids or liquids
Causes Of Weight Loss In People With Cancer
Weight loss often starts with appetite loss. The underlying cancer and treatment-related side effects that may cause appetite loss are:
Changes in metabolism. Metabolism is the bodys process of breaking down food and turning it into energy.
Nausea and vomiting
Talk with your health care team about any symptoms you have. Tell them about new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
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How To Lose Weight In Two Weeks With Exercise
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How Can I Tell If I Have Cancer Fatigue
- Think of your personal energy stores as a “bank.” Deposits and withdrawals have to be made over the course of the day or the week to ensure a balance between energy conservation, restoration and expenditure.
- Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
- Be alert to the warning signs of impending cancer fatigue tired eyes, tired legs, whole-body tiredness, stiff shoulders, decreased energy or a lack of energy, inability to concentrate, weakness or malaise, boredom or lack of motivation, sleepiness, increased irritability, nervousness, anxiety or impatience.
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