If you’re feeling weakness or fatigue during your treatments, you’re not alone. While it’s different for each person, these symptoms are common. Here’s how to deal with fatigue during breast cancer treatment.
Is it normal to be tired with breast cancer?
It’s very normal to be tired with breast cancer and breast cancer treatment. In fact, it’s one of the most common side effects of breast cancer and treatments. Fatigue, or excessive tiredness, can last for weeks, months, or even years both during and after treatment.
How long does tiredness last after radiotherapy for breast cancer?
This all depends on you, your treatment plan, and what you have going on in your life. No two people will experience tiredness the same.
However, radiation can give you fatigue that gets worse over time. This is called cumulative fatigue, and it’s a common side effect to radiotherapy. This will usually last 3 to 4 weeks after treatment.
How do you stop radiation fatigue?
You may not be able to stop radiation fatigue completely, especially when you’re actively going through treatment. However, there are a few things that you can try to limit the fatigue and keep it at bay. We have some more tips below.
Does tamoxifen cause extreme fatigue?
It can. If you’re taking tamoxifen and are experiencing fatigue, please consult with your doctor. They may be able to help you with the symptoms.
How long does it take to recover from a mastectomy?
On average, recovery takes 4-6 weeks. However, it’s okay if recovery takes a bit longer for you. If you believe your recovery time is harder, or if you’re having difficulties with fatigue and pain, please talk to your doctor.
How can I keep energy during chemo?
Besides what we list below, there are a few ways to keep up your energy levels while undergoing chemo.
- Regular exercise — yes, it can be hard to workout during and after chemotherapy. However, moderate exercise, like walks outside or swimming, can help you preserve your energy levels.
- Take it easy during treatment — the day of and the day after your treatment should be treated as “off” days if possible. This will give you time to rest and for your body to recover.
- Drink lots of fluids — water is important, and you should try to drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day.
- Take naps — if you can, you should nap when you feel tired or fatigued. While quality sleep at night is important (more on that later), it’s also important to rest as much as possible when needed.
How do I cope with fatigue?
Other than the tips below, a way that you can cope with fatigue, especially when you can’t increase energy levels right away, is to participate in a hobby or something you love.
For example, during certain treatments, you can read a good book, listen to your favorite podcast — or if you’re able — knit, sew, draw, or any other hobby you love.
How can cancer patients increase energy levels?
Now that you know why fatigue happens and how long it can last for you, let’s talk about how to deal with it and increase your energy levels.
Talk To Your Doctor
If you start feeling a significant amount of fatigue, or if you’re trying to be proactive, talk to your doctor about the symptom and how you can get ahead of it. At the very least, you want to be able to manage the fatigue so it doesn’t affect your day-to-day life as much.
Your doctor will be able to offer a plan to limit fatigue, supplements or medications to aid in recovery, and more. So don’t be afraid to talk to them.
Eat Nourishing Foods
While no food is inherently good or bad, there are some foods that include more vitamins and minerals that can aid in energy levels.
The best foods to eat for energy include;
- Oats — a low-glycemic food that releases energy slowly and throughout the day
- Nuts and seeds — offers healthy fats to fight off hunger and cognitive impairment
- Bananas — packed with potassium and fiber for brain and body fuel
- Lean proteins like chicken and fish — offers omega fatty acids and DHA for brain clarity and heart health
- Eggs — for protein and B12, a vitamin that’s important for energy levels
Surprisingly, caffeine may not help with fatigue or boost your energy. While it may work in the short term, it can cause a negative effect in the long run.
This stimulant — found in certain foods like coffee, tea, sodas, and even chocolate — contains dopamine and noradrenaline to stimulate your heart and nervous system. This causes you to be “alert” while it’s in your system, and crash once it leaves. So, while you may love the taste and how it makes you feel at first, it’s best to avoid caffeine as an energy booster.
Vitamins That May Help Increase Energy
While you’ll need to discuss any supplements and vitamins with your doctor, there are a few that can give you a boost of energy when taken regularly. Of course, be sure to talk to your doctor about the possible side effects and if you can take them with other medications or during treatment.
A few vitamins and minerals that are known to increase energy levels include;
- Vitamins B6 and B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Again, you may be able to take some of these, but not all. Your doctor will be able to give you a plan with supplements and vitamins that can help you during your treatment specifically.
It’s essential to practice self-care while undergoing breast cancer treatment. First, give yourself some grace. While you may be used to going and going, cancer treatment can put many goals and to-dos on hold, especially as fatigue kicks in.
This does not mean you are lazy. This doesn’t mean you don’t want to do things. It just simply means that your body is tired and doing everything it can to keep you safe, so other tasks may need to take a back burner.
Also, now is the time to take care of your mental and physical well-being as much as you can. Take nice warm baths to soothe your muscles. Drink a soothing cup of tea. Take as many naps as you can. Treat yourself with a face mask or pedicure. Anything that you can think of to take care of your mental and physical health will help.
Get Quality Sleep
No matter how much you nap, you’ll also need to get quality sleep each night. It’s common for patients to deal with insomnia and fitful sleep when going through both chemotherapy and radiation. If you’re dealing with this issue, please talk to your doctor about ways that you can get better quality sleep.
If you’re not experiencing insomnia, but just have jitters or anxiety that is causing a lack of sleep, there are other steps you can try as well too.
First, be sure that it’s dark in the place you sleep. You can even use an eye mask if needed. This will help your brain understand that it’s time to rest.
Next, you can always use aromatherapy and comfort items like soft sheets and pillowcases. These can help you relax and feel more comfortable in bed. Plus, they’re a great way to practice self-care.
Also, be sure to avoid electronics, blue light, or heart rate-increasing activities (like reading the news or working out) about 30 minutes before bedtime. These can cause your brain to race, induce anxiety, and cause fatigue.
Get A Massage
If you can find the time to treat yourself, a massage can be incredibly helpful during breast cancer treatment. In fact, massage therapy has been studied as a beneficial and relaxing session for many cancer patients.
However, be sure to check with your doctor before undergoing a massage. While it can be helpful, it’s not for everyone.
If your doctor approves it, you can also ask them to refer you to a licensed massage therapist (also known as an LMT). They may know of one who works specifically with cancer patients and their unique needs.
How To Deal With Fatigue During Breast Cancer Treatment
As you can see, there are many ways that can help you deal with fatigue during breast cancer treatment. While you can try all of these tips (or pick and choose what you need), there are other things that you can try too. Of course, always discuss with your doctor about your symptoms and ask how they can help you.