Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms affecting people with lung cancer, and often one of the most debilitating. It can be experienced as both a symptom of lung cancer and also a side-effect of treatment. People often describe it as a feeling of extreme tiredness, weakness, and a lack of energy. Cancer fatigue is more than just feeling tired. While rest and sleep may recharge most people, those living with lung cancer do not easily feel relief from rest. While fatigue may be more difficult to treat than other symptoms like pain or nausea, there are some tips to help manage fatigue and provide some improvement.1
Stay Active When Possible
Staying active and exercising when possible can really help to improve fatigue. While some may think that exerting energy won’t help to combat fatigue, research shows it can be beneficial. Researchers have demonstrated that lung cancer patients who engage in regular exercise experience less severe cancer-related fatigue, improved well-being, improved functional status, and improved overall quality of life. Some studies have shown that those who exercise regularly have 40-50% less fatigue. 2,3
Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
Many people with lung cancer also experience nausea, loss of appetite, or weight loss as a result of treatment. These symptoms can lead to a lack of nutrients and dehydration. Working with your health care team and/or a dietician can help ensure that you are getting the appropriate vitamins and nutrients and drinking the correct amount of water and fluids.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
It is important to make sure you don’t expend unnecessary energy while you are battling fatigue. Friends and family may be willing to help out around the house, cook a meal, and run errands for you. It may be tough to accept help and you may feel like you’re a burden, but don’t be afraid to take loved ones up on their offer – they want to help!
Speak Up at Doctor’s Appointments
Research shows that fatigue has been underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated in patients with lung cancer.4 This means that many people may just assume this is part of having lung cancer and not worth mentioning to their health care team. However, there may be treatments to help! Also, your doctor may be able to address a problem that is causing some of the fatigue. For example, anemia may make fatigue worse. Treating this condition can help improve symptoms.
Try Alternative Therapies
Complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, have been shown to lessen fatigue in people with lung cancer. Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that uses thin, metallic needles inserted through the skin at strategic points on the body. Hypnosis may also provide some benefit to those experiencing fatigue.5,6
Hofman M, Ryan JL, Figueroa-Moseley CD, Jean-Pierre P, Morrow GR. Cancer-related fatigue: the scale of the problem. The Oncologist. 2007; 12(1S):4-10.
Chandrasekar D, Tribett E, Ramchandran K. Integrated palliative care and oncologic care in non-small-cell lung cancer. Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2016 May;17(5):23.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Accessed online on 11/2/16 at https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_with_cancer/exercise.aspx.
Deng GE, Rausch SM, Jones LW, Gulati A, Kumar NB, Greenlee H, Pietanza MC, Cassileth BR. Complementary therapies and integrative medicine in lung cancer: Diagnosis and management of lung cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2013 May;143(5 Suppl):e420S-36S.
Montgomery GH, Schnur JB, Kravits K. Hypnosis for cancer care: over 200 years young. CA Cancer J Clin. 2013 Jan;63(1):31-44.