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Blood cancer related fatigue

For many people living with blood cancer, cancer related fatigue (CRF) is a side-effect that has an enormous impact on their quality of life.

How does cancer related fatigue differ from normal fatigue?

Cancer related fatigue is very different from normal, everyday tiredness and fatigue, where a good night’s sleep means you feel energised and refreshed the next day.

Despite sleeping for long periods, people with CRF wake feeling exhausted. They don’t have enough energy to face the things they need or want to do in their everyday life. This type of fatigue has a negative impact on day-to-day life.

Learn more about cancer related fatigue and how it differs to normal fatigue with Dr Mike Evans through the cancer related fatigue module on the Leukaemia Foundations Online Support Tool.


Cancer related fatigue symptoms may include:
  • a physical feeling of heaviness or weakness
  • a mental feeling of fogginess
  • not being ‘switched on’
  • your brain saying go, your body saying no

The cause is not usually just one thing, but several:

  • the blood cancer itself
  • blood cancer treatments
  • your previous level of fitness
  • overall health
  • previous medical issues or
  • medical condition such as having a low red blood cell count
  • pain
  • poor sleeping
  • depression

Cancer related fatigue is different because it is persistent. Studies show 65% of cancer patients report suffering from cancer related fatigue, some for many months or years after treatment.

Managing cancer related fatigue

Recognising that you have cancer related fatigue is a good first step. Let your treatment team know.

Talking about how your feeling can lead to resolving cancer related fatigue symptoms of:

  • anaemia
  • poor appetite
  • stress and anxiety

Strategies that may help to reduce fatigue

Mind-body strategies that will help to reduce fatigue:
  • mindfulness
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • massage therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is used to modify thoughts with rational thinking. It helps people gain a sense of control and increase their confidence.

Studies on cancer patients showed that CBT:

  • significantly reduced depression and anxiety
  • improved quality of life
  • reduced pain
  • reduced cancer related fatigue
Use the ‘five Ps’ when feeling tired all the time

Manage cancer related fatigue and maintain your health and well-being with this energy conservation technique.

  • Plan your time – try to plan activities when you have the most energy
  • Prioritise by goal setting – focus on accomplishing those goals and delegate others to help
  • Pace yourself – stop before you get too tired and allow extra time, it’s not a race
  • Posture – conserve your energy by sitting instead of standing
  • Permission – it is important to recognise that this is about you and your level of fatigue. Your body has been in constant survival mode.

See an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist to personalise some exercise recommendations. Talk to your GP to access Medicare rebated sessions using a GP management plan. This could include exercise physiology or physiotherapy. Speak to your provider to see if there is a gap in cost.

Exercise and fatigue

Exercising while having treatment can help with

  • treatment tolerance,
  • support you to maintain activities of daily living and
  • ease some of the cancer related fatigue you might be experiencing.

Exercising if you are between or finished treatment can help with recovery. It can also help reduce the risk of further health issues. Participating in any movement or exercise provides the greatest benefits. Exercise can be:

  • walking to the letterbox
  • walking around the block
  • housework
  • gardening
  • walking the dog

Studies show that staying active is one of the best ways to fight fatigue – the best slogan is move more. This book has some great ideas:

What can I do to help with cancer related fatigue?

Read more about cancer related fatigue in our learn module from the Online Support Service.

Map your energy levels throughout the day and across the week, to identify persistent low energy levels, and look for patterns in your energy levels using our energy coach.

More resources

Julie Allen: On the benefits of exercise
Andrew Smith: What is cancer related fatigue? (

Andrew Smith: Tips and exercises to manage cancer related fatigue (

Morgan Atkinson: Cancer related fatigue and the role of exercise (

Managing fatigue factsheet

Would you like more help?

Visit our online support service for blood cancer patients

Exercise and blood cancer

Find out about the benefits of exercise before, during and after treatment

Would you like to talk to someone?

Chat with a Blood Cancer Support Coordinator now

Last updated on May 9th, 2024

Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.