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- Question: Any ideas on how to handle fatigue in a 50-year-old male with a Anaplastic Astrocytoma, who is undergoing PCV therapy? He sleeps about 12 hours a day and is tired the time he is up.
Fatigue is a common occurence with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Factors contributing to fatigue are worry, poor appetite, and lack of sleep.
The following hints may be helpful in managing fatigue: conserve energy by
noting the individual's natural rhythm - note the time of day when the
fatigue peaks and plan around this time. If the individual is most tired
six hours after being up, then try to get most of the tasks done before this
time period. Prioritize the task and tackle the important ones first. When
possible, pass the task along to someone else to provide some relief to the individual. Often, family and friends want to do something to help out, give them a specific task and both parties stand to benefit. Accept the help when it is offered, let them fix a meal, do laundry, feed the pet, pick up groceries or wash the car. Plan rest times, a nap may be refreshing and needed before the actual bedtime.
Just sitting quietly, perhaps listening to music for a few minutes may
induce relaxation and help the person to feel more rested. Audio tapes are
available with guided imagery that many find helpful in reducing stress and
fostering a sense of peace. Ask the physician about an individualized
exercise program before starting a new regimen. Exercise needs to be
avoided 24 hours before and after treatment. A gentle exercise program can
actually help the individual to fee more energized. Walking, stretching and
yoga are examples of low intensity activity.
However, extreme fatigue can also be a sign of anemia (a shortage of red
blood cells). Certain medications can cause fatigue. Ask the physician if
other medications can be substituted if the drugs are causing the fatigue.
It is also important to eat a well balanced diet. Eating raw fruits and
vegetables may raise the risk of infection for the cancer patient who may
have an impaired ability to ward off infections due to a reduced white
blood cell count. If raw fruits and vegetables are eaten, they need to be
thoroughly washed and scrubbed with a small fine brush. Vitamin and mineral
deficiencies can also cause anemia. Liquid supplements can help the
individual get needed nutrients. Ask the physician to recommend one if
The physician can best determine when to treat the anemia either by a blood
transfusion, if the anemia is severe enough, or by medication to increase red
blood cell production if appropriate for that individual. The physician
should be called for shortness of breath, chest pain, paler skin than
normal, extreme fatigue or dizziness when getting up from a lying down or