If you are too tired

Feeling very tired (fatigued) is a common side effect of cancer treatment. It is often worse towards the end of a course of radiotherapy or chemotherapy and for some weeks after treatment has finished. You may find you are struggling to cook your meals and you are too tired to eat.

Tips to help you cope with tiredness

There are different ways you can make things easier if you are feeling too tired to cook or eat:

  • Use convenience foods such as frozen meals, tinned foods and ready meals. Remember to defrost frozen foods thoroughly and cook all foods properly to avoid any risk of food poisoning. Read and follow cooking instructions carefully.
  • Try to plan ahead. If you have a freezer, prepare food when you are feeling more energetic and freeze it to use when you are feeling tired. You could stock up on convenience foods or use a local meal-delivery company.
  • Family, friends or neighbours may want to help in some way. You could ask if they could get some shopping or cook for you.
  • If you really don’t want to eat, try a nourishing drink. You can make a smoothie by blending bananas, peaches, strawberries or other soft fruit (fresh or frozen) with fortified milk, fruit juice, ice-cream or yoghurt in a liquidiser or blender.
  • Your doctor, nurse or dietitian can prescribe or recommend supplement drinks for you.
  • If you feel you need more help at home with your cooking or eating, tell your GP or contact the dietitian at your hospital. They may be able to arrange for you to have meals delivered (meals on wheels) or for someone to help you prepare your food.
  • It may be easier to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day rather than a few bigger meals.

We have more information on coping with fatigue that you might find helpful.

Eating small, regular portions can help with tiredness. Starchy and high-fibre foods are best for providing slow-release energy.

Teresa, Cancer Information Nurse