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Tiredness (fatigue|) is probably the most common side effect of bowel cancer treatment.
You may lack energy and find doing everyday tasks exhausting. Rest often doesn’t make it better. It can affect the way you think and feel, and even things you usually enjoy, such as reading or watching TV, can be difficult. It can affect your relationships and make you impatient with people around you. You may avoid socialising because it’s too much effort.
It’s not unusual for fatigue to last for many months after treatment is over. Occasionally, in some people, it may last for a year or two.
If you’re experiencing fatigue you may:
Recovering from cancer treatments can take time and fatigue is often a part of this.
Sometimes fatigue is linked to problems such as depression, sleep problems, pain, anaemia or thyroid problems. So it’s important to find out if there’s a particular cause of your fatigue so that it can be treated.
Your doctor can take blood samples to find out if you have anaemia (low number of red blood cells), or to find out if your thyroid gland is underactive. Both of these conditions can be treated with medicines.
Fatigue is a common symptom of depression|. It’s not unusual to feel depressed, anxious| or stressed after treatment for cancer. If you think you’re depressed, talk to your doctor or nurse. You and your doctor will be able to work out if what you’re feeling is depression or fatigue. Talking about your feelings with a professional counsellor can often help depression, and antidepressants may help you feel better.
If sleep or pain problems are causing or contributing to your fatigue, then improving these will help you feel better.
The quality of your sleep is important and you can read more about ways of getting a better night-time rest in our section about coping with fatigue|.
Coping with pain is tiring and also affects the quality of your sleep. If you have effective treatment for your pain|, this may improve your energy levels.
Taking care of yourself is very important and can help you to feel better.
Problems with concentration and memory| are also common with fatigue and can be frustrating to deal with.
Denton had to cope with fatigue after he had treatment for prostate cancer. Watch a video of him explaining how it affected him.
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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