Stephanie Hightower, FNP-BC Discusses Combatting Fatigue

Fatigue is defined as “weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress” (1).   It is a common part of life, but can also be a symptom of an illness, such as cancer, and/or a side effect from treatments, including chemotherapy.  There are many ways to help decrease fatigue.  In this post, we will discuss energy conservation, sleep, and physical activity. 

Energy conservation is an important part of combatting fatigue.  This entails finding ways to save energy in daily life.  For example, delegate tasks to family or friends who offer to help.  Other ways to conserve energy include keeping items that are used often within easy reach, using assistive equipment, such as a jar opener, a reacher, a shower chair, and taking rest breaks before getting overly tired (2).

Adequate sleep is essential to ensuring that you are able to carry out your activities of daily living.    Limiting daytime napping, maintaining a sleep schedule, and having a bedtime ritual can help you fall asleep more easily.  Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon/evening, by switching to water or other caffeine-free beverages after 3pm, will likely also help (3).  Keeping cellphones and other electronics out of bed and preferably in another room may also help you get a better night’s rest.

Physical activity is another very helpful way to prevent and treat fatigue (4).  Walking, yoga, and lifting light weights are a few examples.  It is important to start slowly and avoid doing “too much too fast” (5).  In order to help adult cancer survivors (anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer is considered a survivor) improve physical activity, Coastal Cancer Center has partnered with LIVESTRONG at the YMCA.  This is a free 12-week small-group program for adult cancer survivors to learn how to increase physical activity in a supportive and safe environment.  If you are interested in participating, talk with your providers at Coastal Cancer Center or visit the website below (6).  Please talk with your health care provider for further information and evaluation and before starting any new diet or exercise program.

Fatigue is a common symptom of cancer and side effect of cancer treatment.  However, there are ways to help manage it and, as a result, improve your quality of life.  Conserving energy, getting enough sleep, and increasing physical activity are three such methods.     


  2. Brown, Carlton. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management, Oncology Nursing Society, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 396-402, 2015.
  4. Gobel, Barbara., Triest-Robertson, Shirlet, & Vogel, Wendy. Advanced Oncology Nursing Certification: Review and Resource Manual, Oncology Nursing Society, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 425, 2018.
Coastal Cancer Center

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