What Type of Cancer Causes Fatigue: A Comprehensive Guide

Cancer not only poses a significant threat to one’s health, but also affects one’s overall energy levels. There are many types of cancer, and each one can present itself a little differently. But, did you know that certain types of cancer can cause fatigue? It’s true – fatigue is a common side effect that affects many cancer patients, and it has the potential to severely impact their daily lives. Understanding the causes of cancer-related fatigue can help patients and loved ones better manage this issue and improve their quality of life.

Breast cancer, in particular, is known to cause significant fatigue. This is due to the fact that breast cancer patients often undergo intense treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These treatments can be incredibly taxing on the body, leading to fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion. Unfortunately, fatigue can persist even after treatment has ended, making it a long-term issue for many breast cancer survivors. If you or a loved one is dealing with breast cancer, it’s important to be aware of this potential side effect and take steps to mitigate it as best as you can.

Cancer-related fatigue is a complex issue, and it can be challenging to manage. However, by better understanding the types of cancer that are most likely to cause fatigue, and the underlying causes of this issue, it’s possible to make a positive impact on your quality of life. Whether you’re currently undergoing treatment or are in remission, fatigue is always a possibility. By taking steps to address it head-on, you can help restore some of your energy and feel more like yourself once again.

Common types of cancer that cause fatigue

Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people all over the world. It comes in different types, each with its unique symptoms, causes, and treatments. One common symptom that many cancer patients experience is fatigue, a feeling of extreme tiredness or lack of energy. Fatigue can be brought about by cancer itself, as well as by its treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Below are some of the common types of cancer that cause fatigue:

  • Breast cancer – Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Its treatment, which may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy, can take a toll on the body and cause fatigue. Fatigue may also be a symptom of advanced breast cancer.
  • Lung cancer – Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. It can cause fatigue due to cancer-related anemia, which is a condition where the body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues.
  • Colon cancer – Colon cancer is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine. It can cause fatigue due to anemia, as well as other symptoms like weight loss, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements.

Cancer-related fatigue can be a debilitating condition that can affect a person’s quality of life. It is important for cancer patients to talk to their doctors about their fatigue symptoms and to work together to develop a treatment plan that addresses their individual needs.

How Cancer Treatment Can Contribute to Fatigue

One of the most common side effects of cancer treatment is fatigue. This is because cancer treatment can affect not only cancer cells but also healthy cells in the body. Here are some ways cancer treatment can contribute to fatigue:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. However, these drugs can also damage healthy cells, including those in the bone marrow that produce new blood cells. This can lead to anemia, which is a condition characterized by a low red blood cell count. Anemia can cause fatigue because red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. However, it can also damage healthy cells in the surrounding areas. This can cause inflammation, which can lead to fatigue.
  • Surgery: Surgery is often used to remove cancerous cells or tumors from the body. However, it can also cause fatigue as the body recovers from the trauma of the surgery. This can include pain, inflammation, and healing from the incision site.

It is important to note that not all cancer treatments will cause fatigue, and not everyone who undergoes cancer treatment will experience fatigue. However, if you are experiencing fatigue during cancer treatment, it is important to discuss it with your healthcare team.

There are also things you can do to manage fatigue during cancer treatment. This may include getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and incorporating light exercise into your routine. Your healthcare team may also be able to recommend medications or other therapies to help manage your fatigue.

Treatment TypeMain Causes of Fatigue
ChemotherapyAnemia, low red blood cell count
Radiation therapyInflammation in surrounding areas
SurgeryRecovery from trauma of surgery, pain, inflammation

Managing fatigue during cancer treatment can be challenging, but it is important to take care of yourself and seek support from your healthcare team. With the right resources and strategies in place, you can manage your fatigue and continue to live your life as fully as possible.

The Relationship between Anemia and Cancer-related Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is one of the most common symptoms experienced by cancer patients. It is a debilitating state of exhaustion that can interfere with the daily activities and quality of life of the patient. One of the leading causes of cancer-related fatigue is anemia, a condition distinguished by a decrease in the number of red blood cells in circulation.

Anemia in cancer patients is typically caused by the cancer itself or side effects of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. When the cancerous tumor grows, it tends to disrupt the normal development of red blood cells in the bone marrow leading to a decreased number of red blood cells in circulation. Similarly, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can damage the healthy cells in the bone marrow responsible for producing red blood cells.

The levels of hemoglobin, a protein found in the red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body, are lower in anemic patients. This results in a reduced amount of oxygen being delivered to the muscles and organs in the body, leading to tiredness, weakness, and CRF. Research has shown that anemic cancer patients are more likely to experience severe cancer-related fatigue and perceive it as a significant burden compared to those without anemia.

Ways to Manage Anemia-related Cancer Fatigue

  • Treat the Underlying Cause: Treating the cause of anemia, whether it be cancer or side effects of treatment, is key to managing anemia-related CRF. This may include chemotherapy dose adjustments, the use of erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESA), iron supplementation, blood transfusions, and other pharmacological interventions.
  • Physical Activity: Engaging in physical activity such as exercise or simply taking a walk can help improve the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body and reduce the incidence and severity of CRF.
  • Dietary Changes: Eating a balanced diet rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folate can help boost the production of red blood cells and help manage anemia-related CRF. Consult a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition recommendations.


In conclusion, understanding the relationship between anemia and cancer-related fatigue is critical in the management and treatment of cancer patients. Managing anemia via targeted pharmacological interventions, physical activity, and dietary changes can help improve the quality of life of anemic cancer patients and help them better cope with the burdens of cancer-related fatigue. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of cancer-related fatigue, consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and management.

Hemoglobin LevelCancer-related Fatigue Severity
12 g/dL or greaterLow to mild
Below 12 g/dLModerate to severe

Table 1: Hemoglobin level and cancer-related fatigue severity. Adapted from Wu et al. (2020).

Cancer-related fatigue vs. normal fatigue

One of the most common complaints among cancer patients is fatigue. However, cancer-related fatigue is different from normal fatigue that we experience on a day-to-day basis.

  • Cancer-related fatigue: Cancer-related fatigue is a constant feeling of tiredness and lack of energy that is not relieved by resting. It may be acute or chronic, severe or mild, and may be worsened by cancer treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Cancer-related fatigue may also be caused by the cancer itself and its effect on the body.
  • Normal fatigue: Normal fatigue is a feeling of tiredness and lack of energy that is relieved by resting. It is usually temporary and may be caused by physical or mental activities such as exercise, work, or stress. Normal fatigue is a common experience and can be easily relieved by getting enough sleep and rest.

It is important to differentiate between cancer-related fatigue and normal fatigue to ensure that cancer patients receive the appropriate management and treatment.

One way to differentiate between cancer-related fatigue and normal fatigue is to look at the symptoms that accompany the fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, depression, and anxiety, while normal fatigue is not. Another way is to look at the duration of the fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is usually chronic and lasts for more than six months, while normal fatigue is usually temporary and lasts for a few days or weeks.

Cancer-related fatigueNormal fatigue
Constant feeling of tiredness and lack of energy that is not relieved by restingFeeling of tiredness and lack of energy that is relieved by resting
Accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, depression, and anxietyNot accompanied by other symptoms
Usually chronic and lasts for more than six monthsUsually temporary and lasts for a few days or weeks

If you or someone you know is experiencing fatigue, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate management.

Coping Mechanisms for Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common side effect of cancer and its treatments. The tiredness and lack of energy associated with CRF can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. Coping mechanisms are strategies for managing the physical and emotional effects of CRF. Here are five effective coping mechanisms for cancer-related fatigue:

  • Physical activity: It may seem counterintuitive, but physical activity can actually boost energy levels. Regular exercise, such as walking or yoga, is recommended. It’s important to start slowly and work with a healthcare provider to create an appropriate exercise plan.
  • Rest: Adequate rest is essential for managing CRF. Patients should set aside time for rest throughout the day and prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. Naps are also beneficial, but should not interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Nutrition: A healthy diet can contribute to increased energy levels. Patients should consume a variety of nutrient-rich foods and stay hydrated. It may be helpful to work with a registered dietitian to create a balanced meal plan.
  • Relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. These practices can be incorporated into daily routines or used as needed throughout the day.
  • Support: Emotional support from loved ones, support groups, or mental health professionals can help patients cope with the challenges of CRF. It’s important not to isolate oneself and to maintain social connections.

Other coping mechanisms include acupuncture, massage, and counseling. Patients should work with their healthcare providers to determine which coping mechanisms are appropriate for their individual needs.

Overall, coping with cancer-related fatigue may require patience, adjustments to routines, and a willingness to try different strategies. By incorporating these coping mechanisms into daily routines, patients can manage the impact of CRF on their daily lives and maintain a sense of control.

Managing cancer-related fatigue in the workplace

One of the most debilitating symptoms of cancer is fatigue, and it can significantly impact the ability to work. It’s essential to manage cancer-related fatigue in the workplace effectively. Below are some useful tips to help cancer patients manage fatigue while at work:

  • Communicate with your employer: Let your employer know about your cancer diagnosis. Make them aware of the symptoms you are experiencing and explain how it affects your ability to work. Additionally, discuss the possible work adjustments they can make to support you.
  • Plan and prioritize tasks: Establish a schedule that works for you. Determine tasks that require the most energy and complete them when you have the most energy, whether early morning or after lunch.
  • Take breaks frequently: Don’t push yourself beyond your limit; it may worsen your fatigue. Instead, take frequent short breaks. Stand up, stretch, or take a brisk walk to boost your energy.

Additionally, below are some workplace adjustments that cancer patients can make to manage fatigue while at work:

Workplace adjustments

Flexible ScheduleAllows for appointments, naps, and a break when needed
TelecommutingReduces commuting and related fatigue
Reduced WorkloadLess work to complete lowers fatigue levels

Cancer patients should not feel ashamed to discuss work adjustments or ask for support. Managing fatigue in the workplace is critical to maintaining productivity and quality of life.

Importance of exercise for reducing cancer-related fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is a common and distressing symptom experienced by cancer patients. It can be caused by the cancer itself, as well as treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. Cancer-related fatigue is different from normal tiredness and can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life and ability to carry out daily activities.

Research has shown that physical activity and exercise can help reduce cancer-related fatigue and improve overall wellbeing in cancer patients. Exercise can help by:

  • Increasing energy levels
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Reducing the risk of other health complications
  • Improving mood and self-esteem

It is important to note that exercise does not have to be intense or strenuous to be effective in reducing cancer-related fatigue. Even low-intensity exercise such as walking can have a significant positive impact on a patient’s fatigue levels. It is recommended that cancer patients aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

It is also important for cancer patients to consult with their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Depending on a patient’s individual circumstances, some exercises may be more appropriate than others.

Recommended ExercisesAvoid if:
WalkingYou have severe bone pain or shortness of breath
Swimming or water aerobicsYou have an open wound or infection
Cycling on a stationary bikeYou have balance issues or peripheral neuropathy

Overall, incorporating physical activity and exercise into a cancer patient’s routine can be an effective way to reduce cancer-related fatigue and improve overall quality of life. By working with their healthcare provider and following recommended exercise guidelines, cancer patients can safely and effectively incorporate exercise into their treatment plan.

FAQs: What Type of Cancer Causes Fatigue?

Q: Does every type of cancer cause fatigue?

A: No. While fatigue is a common symptom of many types of cancer, not all cancers cause fatigue.

Q: What types of cancer are most likely to cause fatigue?

A: Cancers that affect the blood, such as leukemia and lymphoma, are often associated with fatigue. Other types of cancer that can cause fatigue include lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

Q: Why does cancer cause fatigue?

A: Cancer can cause fatigue in a number of ways. Tumor cells can produce substances that interfere with normal bodily functions, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be physically taxing, and cancer-related inflammation can sap the body’s energy.

Q: When does cancer-related fatigue typically occur?

A: Cancer-related fatigue can occur at any stage of the disease, from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. However, it is most common during active treatment.

Q: Is there anything that can be done to treat cancer-related fatigue?

A: Yes. Depending on the cause of the fatigue, various treatments may be available, including medications, exercise, nutrition counseling, and stress reduction techniques.

Q: Can cancer-related fatigue be a sign that the cancer is getting worse?

A: Not necessarily. While it’s true that cancer-related fatigue can be a symptom of advanced cancer, it can also be a normal part of the cancer experience.

Q: Can anything be done to prevent cancer-related fatigue?

A: It’s difficult to prevent cancer-related fatigue entirely, but managing stress, getting enough rest and exercise, and eating a healthy diet can help reduce the severity of the fatigue.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has been helpful in answering some of your questions about what types of cancer are most likely to cause fatigue. Remember, if you’re experiencing fatigue or any other symptoms that concern you, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit our site again for more informative articles.