person looking fatigued

There may be short and long term physical side effects as a result of your treatment. Every patient has different side effects. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what side effects you can expect. Make sure your cancer care team is aware of how you are feeling so that you can get the care that you need.

Some common side effects include:

  • Fatigue (feeling of tiredness that lasts a long time and that does not go away with sleep)
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea (feeling like you might throw up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Hair loss

If you notice any new or different symptoms, tell your oncologist as soon as possible. Attend all of your scheduled check-ups. This is to make sure that your oncologist is aware of any changes that may be related to your cancer.​

Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is the most common symptom felt by people with cancer. Since most people with cancer feel fatigue, read below for tips to manage fatigue.

What is cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue is a feeling of being tired that can last a long time and does not go away with rest or sleep. Most of the time, fatigue is worse during treatment. For some patients, it can last for months or even years after treatment is over.

Fatigue can make you feel:

  • Very tired, weak, heavy or slow
  • Like you cannot think or remember things
  • Worn out
  • Like you do not have the energy to see people or do things you love

What causes cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue may be caused by:

  • Cancer itself
  • Cancer treatments
  • Anemia (low number of red blood cells in your body)
  • Nausea (feeling like you might throw up) and vomiting (throwing up)
  • Pain, depression or anxiety
  • Not enough physical activity and exercise
  • Not getting the right nutrients
  • Other medical problems
  • Fatigue before treatment
  • Medicines
  • Emotional distress
  • Sleep problems

How can I manage cancer-related fatigue?

  • Be active. Exercise is the best way to make your fatigue better. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate (not too easy or too hard) exercise on most days. Talk to your cancer care team about how to exercise safely.
  • Improve your sleep. Talk to your cancer care team about problems that may disturb your sleep, like depression, anxiety and stress.
  • Manage stress and emotions. You can help manage your fatigue by talking to someone about your feelings or doing activities to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Pace yourself. Use your energy wisely to do the things that are most important to you.
  • Eat well. Eat healthy foods and lots of variety to have more energy. To stay hydrated, drink at least 6 glasses of water or other liquids every day (unless the doctor told you to drink more or less).
  • Watch the Reclaim Your Energy video to learn more about cancer-related fatigue and how to manage it.
  • Check the Patient & Family Library for pamphlets about cancer-related fatigue.

When should I talk to my cancer care team?

Tell your cancer care team how you are feeling at every appointment. They want to know about your fatigue. Do not be afraid to ask about your questions and concerns.

Tell your cancer care team right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Feeling dizzy, loss of appetite or falls
  • Fatigue that is suddenly much worse
  • Sudden shortness of breath or a fast heart beat
  • Bleeding that cannot be explained or bleeding that does not stop
  • Anxiety, depression or feelings of not coping well

Manage Your Pain

Every person feels pain in a different way, and coping with pain can be hard work. If you experience pain, tell your doctor or nurse so they can help you.

When describing your pain, make sure you tell your health care team:

  • When and how often you have pain
  • If you have noticed that a particular activity brings on pain
  • How severe your pain is by rating it on a scale (you may use the scale below to rate your pain)
  • How you treat the pain – be sure to mention any medications you are taking to relieve the pain
Chart of pain levels

There are many ways to control your pain. Speak with your health care team to determine the best ways to provide you with relief from pain.​

Last reviewed: 1/8/2020
Last modified: 10/30/2023 12:04 PM
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