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Cancer-related fatigue – what it is, how it can affect you and how to manage it

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.

What is fatigue?

Managing fatigue.

In these videos, a Leukaemia Foundation Blood Cancer Support Coordinator, Andrew Smith talks about fatigue: what it is, how it can affect your life, and what you can do about it, including practical tips and strategies.

CRF 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 and 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 their day-to-day life.

Physically, CRF can feel like a heaviness or weakness, or a cognitive or mental feeling of fogginess, and of not being ‘switched on’.

The cause is not usually just one thing, but several. The blood cancer itself and cancer treatment can contribute to CRF, as can your previous level of fitness, overall health, previous medical issues, or a medical condition such as having a low red blood cell count.

It is important to get the latest up-to-date information to understand what CRF is and isn’t.

The effect of CRF can be mild, moderate or severe in how it affects you. Work out where you sit on this spectrum and whether it’s affecting your work or daily life.

If it’s highly-moderate to severe, consider asking one of our blood cancer support coordinators to connect you with a relevant health professional in your local community, such as an occupational therapist, exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist, who is good at managing this side-effect.

Also, 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.

Then you can apply the ‘three Ps’ – planning, prioritising and pacing – an energy conservation technique to maintain your health and well-being.

There’s always something you can do for yourself to improve your quality of life and lessen the effect of CRF. This includes getting quality information, connecting to the right people, and getting specialised support.

News flash: The Leukaemia Foundation has a new blood cancer information and education YouTube channel – the home of trusted information about blood cancer.