NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults - page 71

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults
Version 2013
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Part 6: Coping with side effects
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Why it happens
The fatigue that comes with cancer is a completely different animal than run-
of-the-mill tiredness. As one blogger on Planet Cancer (
described it, “It’s like you’re so tired that it makes you tired.”
Fatigue can be the result of treatment’s effects on the red blood cells that carry
oxygen to your tissues, side effects of other medications, pain, dehydration,
stress, sleeplessness, inadequate nutrition, or any combination of the above. If
you experience fatigue, you may find that it is most severe in the days right after
you receive treatment.
What you can do
How your fatigue is managed will depend on its underlying causes. If you have
anemia, your treatment team may give you a transfusion of red blood cells. If
your fatigue can be traced to factors such as pain, sleeplessness, or nutritional
problems, you may be referred to specialists with expertise in those areas.
In addition to eating well and staying as active as possible, you can work
around treatment-related fatigue by paying attention to when fatigue tends
to hit and managing your time accordingly. If you tend to feel wiped out in the
days immediately following treatment, avoid making too many commitments
during those times. When you do have energy, pace yourself and feel free
to change or cancel plans if you’re just not up to it.
Why it happens
Cancer treatment can damage your bone marrow, temporarily suppressing
the cells your body needs to form red blood cells, platelets, and white blood
cells called neutrophils that defend the body against infection. A severe drop in
neutrophils is known as neutropenia.
Bone marrow:
Soft tissue
found in the center of most
bones where blood cells
are formed
A type of blood
cell that forms blood clots
to control bleeding
Side effect:
An unplanned
physical or emotional
response to treatment
White blood cell:
A type
of blood cell that fights
disease and infection
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