Fatigue: A common symptom and source of frustration in the fight against brain cancer

FATIGUE-1In many studies describing the experience of high grade brain tumor survivors, fatigue is named as being one of the most debilitating factors that decreases quality of life. This condition is characterized by overwhelming tiredness that cannot be remedied by a good night’s sleep. People with fatigue report that they are unable to participate in normal daily activities. Fatigue can often be the first sign of something wrong that sends patients to their doctor, leading to a brain tumor diagnosis. Fatigue may also impact people during brain tumor treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Brain injury in general can cause fatigue, as well as emotional stress. It can continue for several months to years. Caregivers can also experience fatigue.

This condition can creep up on you and before you know it, knock you down. It’s therefore important to take action early because combatting fatigue is essential for good health and wellbeing. Quality of life scientists are conducting research to better understand fatigue and ways to manage this debilitating condition. Meanwhile, here are some current tips on how to manage fatigue.

  • Don’t wait for fatigue to become overwhelming. Talk to your doctor or nurse if this symptom is becoming a challenge for you.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. Sometimes medications, chemotherapy or drug interactions can cause fatigue so you may want to ask your doctor about this.
  • A regular exercise regimen may control some of the fatigue. Yoga and other forms of exercise have been shown to decrease fatigue.
  • Eat a balanced diet, rich in protein, fruits and vegetables. High intake of processed sugar can rapidly raise and lower blood glucose levels which contributes to tiredness.
  • Prioritize your time to the most important activities. Your energy is like money in a bank account. There is only so much energy to spend in a day, so you have to be very selective about how you use it. Survivors and caregivers must decide what are the most important activities and events for them. All other activities will just have to wait.
  • Ask for help. Friends and family want to help, but they need to have some direction. Develop a weekly routine where other people can take over some tasks. Divide and conquer!

About the Author: Mary Lovely Ph.D. RN, CNRNs