Symptom Management

Fatigue and insomnia are common side effects of radiation treatments.

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue, an overwhelming feeling of lack of energy, is a frequent concern during and after treatment for cancer. Although it is often ignored or undertreated, fatigue has a profound effect on the sense of well-being. Information is knowledge in the fight against fatigue. Knowing some of the causes and effects is the first step towards better fatigue management.

Simple Tips to Fight Fatigue


Following approval by your physician, gradually add physical activity and exercise into your routine. Slowly, work your way up to 30 minutes a day. This can be achieved by accumulating time over the course of each day. Give yourself time to develop your strength and endurance. Stay as active as you can.

Try out different ways to relax until you find a strategy useful for you. Soothing music, meditation, distraction techniques, car rides, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation may help. Give yourself time to practice these new behaviors.

Stress Reduction
Try to avoid things and people that cause you stress. Develop positive thoughts; avoid negative thoughts and negative people. A support group of caring and concern members may prove useful.

Eat frequent, small and well-balanced meals. Delegate the grocery shopping and meal preparation to others, if possible. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Unless your physician advises otherwise, eight glasses of water a day is generally recommended.

Do your best to balance activity and rest during the day. Plan brief naps no later than 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. so that nighttime sleep will not be interrupted. During the day, find a room that is dim and quiet and set an alarm to prevent you from sleeping too long. Thirty minute naps can be refreshing. Reduce any distracting noises; put yourself in brief periods of "time-out."

Conserve Energy
Do those things that are most important to you when your energy level is the greatest. Say "YES" to offers to help and delegate errands and chores whenever you can. Provide suggestions to your family and friends on ways they can help. Slowly increase your activity level and plan some light activity each day.

What is Insomnia?

Poor sleep habits can interfere with your daily life and leave you feeling worn out, irritable, short-tempered, and ineffective in achieving your personal and/or professional goals. If you are bothered by sleep problems, have trouble concentrating, or are feeling sluggish and energy depleted, take time to try out new sleep strategies.

Simple Tips to Beat Insomnia


Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
Try to go to bed at about the same time each night and get up at approximately the same time each morning, even during the weekend. Be consistent on establishing your sleep-wake cycle. Determine how much sleep you need in order to feel refreshed when you awaken. Balance time up out of bed and awake with time resting or sleeping. Create relaxing pre-sleep rituals like taking a warm bath.

Take Naps Early in the Day and Limit Duration of Napping
Several short 30- to 45-minute naps may be more effective than one to two hour naps. Set your alarm clock so that brief "catnaps" will refresh you without interfering with nighttime rest. Avoid napping after 4:00 p.m.

Create a Restful, Relaxing and Comfortable Bedroom
Reserve your bed for sleep or sexual activity. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable night clothes. Replace an old sagging mattress. Try a new pillow. Regulate your bedroom to a temperature comfortable for you, neither too hot nor too cold. Sleep in a dark, well- ventilated room. Limit clutter and distractions in the room. Keep work-related assignments in a room other than the bedroom.

Limit Distracting Noise and Interruptions
Keep the bedroom quiet. Turn the telephone down or off. Mask noises with soft, soothing music, "white noise" or the hum of a fan. Heavy drapes may help soundproof and darken the room. Avoid stimulating or distressing mental or physical activities close to bedtime.

Incorporate Relaxation and Stress Reduction Measures into Each Day
Spend time winding down prior to bedtime. Progressive muscle relaxation, slow deep breathing exercises, meditation, visualization and imagery are pleasant sleep inducers. Try recalling all the details and sensations of pleasant memories such as past vacations or enjoyable trips to the beach or mountains. Music, prayer, massage, a warm bath or light reading material may also be helpful.

Refocus Negative Thinking
Refocus your thoughts on positive ideas and affirmative statements to ease your mind. Set aside a brief, specific time during the day to worry. Use this "worry opportunity" for creative problem-solving, but do not let worries linger. Distance yourself from worries and concerns by writing them down along with possible solutions and depositing it in a "worry jar" prior to bedtime. Place the jar in a room other than the bedroom.

Develop a Program of Increased Activity and Regular Exercise
Morning or early afternoon exercise positively influences the quality of nighttime sleep. Walking outside or on a treadmill is a beneficial activity that can be gradually increased in time and speed based on how you are feeling. Try enlisting a friend or partner in your walking program or make exercise fun. For added energy, you may want to try a short walk instead of napping in the daytime. Avoid strenuous exercise at least an hour before bedtime. Try to get some form of exercise each day.

Restrict Intake of Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine
Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola products and chocolate after lunchtime or within eight hours of bedtime. These products often cause fragmented sleep.

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