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|*1st 1/2 hour
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Side Effects of
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Incontinence - Urinary
Dryness of the Mouth
Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances
Nausea & Vomiting
Spinal Cord Compression
Shortness of Breath
Sleep Problems (Insomnia/Oversleeping)
Fatigue is a vague feeling of being tired, weak, or
exhausted. It is often a symptom of cancer, when cancer is first
diagnosed, or when cancer progresses (Ferrell et al, 1996). It
is also the most common side effect of cancer treatment. Some
people with cancer have described fatigue as being “tired to
the bones” or “hitting a wall.” Others say it is the most
distressing side effect of cancer treatment. Fatigue is
different for everyone, so it is important that the person who
is experiencing it describe how he or she feels. Fatigue may
cause decreased ability to work or do physical activity. If the
person with cancer is easily distracted and unable to
concentrate on mental work or activity, then he or she may have
attentional fatigue (Winningham and Barton-Burke, 2000).
Depending upon its cause, fatigue can come and go or stay
constant for a while. Fatigue from chemotherapy tends to occur a
few days after the treatment, peaks, and then gets better before
the next treatment. Fatigue from radiation doesn’t happen
right away. It develops over the first two to three weeks of
treatment and then increases as the treatment continues. It may
last three months or more after the treatment is finished.
Attentional fatigue can last up until two or three years after
treatment is completed.
We currently understand some of the causes of fatigue but not
all of them. Fatigue may be related to physical changes caused
by cancer or its treatment (chemotherapy, biotherapy,
radiotherapy, or surgery). It is reported that the fatigue
people get when receiving cancer treatment is more severe than
the fatigue healthy people get. In addition, this fatigue lasts
longer and is not relieved by sleep. Studies have shown that low
hemoglobin is also related to fatigue. Hemoglobin carries oxygen
in the blood, so if it is low, the body cells do not get as much
oxygen as they need. Also, people who are not well nourished,
who don’t drink enough fluid and are dehydrated, or who are
not able to move around much tend to have fatigue more easily.
Finally, the way a person handles stress, thinks, or behaves can
If the person on chemotherapy has decreased hemoglobin, or
oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, and it seems like the low
hemoglobin level will last for a while, then a medicine called
PROCRIT® (Epoetin alfa) may be prescribed. This medicine is
given as an injection to keep the hemoglobin at a higher level.
This can sometimes manage fatigue. PROCRIT is for anemic
chemotherapy patients with most types of cancer.
To manage anemia related fatigue or to lessen it, a person on
chemotherapy can also:
Drink plenty of fluids.
Regularly do gentle exercise.
Talk about problems with friends and family or the health
Ask for help with chores or tasks.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and talk to the nurse or doctor
about taking a multivitamin daily.
Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about how you
can manage or lessen anemia related fatigue.