By J.D. Heyes

Many people are unaware that fatigue is the most common side effect of traditional cancer treatments. In fact, there is research suggesting that most people receiving traditional cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are beset with fatigue, which is described as the physical and/or mental state of being tired and weak. .

Physical and mental fatigue are different, write Kira Taniguchi, MA, and Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, but the conditions often co-exist, making the cancer treatment experience even more taxing on the body.

“The causes of fatigue might stem from the cancer itself or the cancer treatments,” the researchers wrote at The Huffington Post. “Psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety or emotional distress, low red blood counts, surgery, stress, pain, lack of exercise, and sleep disruption are also contributing factors. If you are living with cancer, chances are you are struggling with fatigue, which can last even long after treatment ends.”

Some of the most common cancer-related signs of fatigue, noted Taniguchi and Cohen, include:

  • Prolonged, extreme tiredness following an activity
  • Weakness, tiredness, weariness and being exhausted, even after sleeping
  • Being too tired to complete normal daily activities
  • Feelings of frustration and irritability, and becoming upset about the fatigue and its effects
  • Arms and legs that feel heavy and hard to move.

Continuing research regarding cancer-related fatigue, the pair noted, includes measuring the effects of taking ginseng, cognitive behavioural therapy combined with exercise, meditation, and a number of other holistic techniques. There have already been several integrative therapies developed for cancer-related side effects, and these have been shown to improve symptoms, including fatigue.

To alleviate cancer treatment-related fatigue, the pair recommend the following seven integrative therapies:

  • Don’t rest on your laurels: Exercise is not just a great way to improve your overall health, but it has also been found to be a great fatigue-smasher.
  • Let your mind and body be one: The researchers note that a growing body of evidence suggests that mind-body exercises like tai chi, yoga and meditation are useful in combating fatigue.
  • Have a professional nutritionist evaluate your nutritional intake to make sure that it contains the daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. This is a crucial element of improving your health overall, and may also affect fatigue caused by cancer treatment.
  • Little needles: If you’ve never tried acupuncture, you may be missing out on a great technique to reduce cancer treatment-related fatigue. There is limited research specifically on the benefits of this technique for cancer relief, but there is much more data to indicate acupuncture can provide some relief if fatigue is related to symptoms like dry mouth, hot flashes, nausea and pain.
  • Get a massage: Not just to pamper yourself, but get a massage to relax so that you can sleep better and reduce your overall fatigue.
  • Consider consulting a health psychologist, because working with one could help you better engage in behaviour that will allow you to increase relaxation, improve sleep and thereby reduce your fatigue.
  • Treat yourself to some music: Music therapy has been shown to help patients reduce fatigue through stress management, pain alleviation and expression of feelings.

These techniques, and many others, including how food and nutrition play a major role in battling cancer, are included in a nine-part series available online for FREE, beginning April 12, called TRUTH About CANCER. Don’t miss out – 8 million people will die from cancer this year.