“I am a 47 year old, stage 2 prostate cancer survivor…and have bouts of fatigue. Doctors cannot figure it out and it is driving my wife crazy because I am tired most of the time. I try to exercise as much as possible and try to watch my diet, but I am still very tired.” - Client quote
The quote above captures a very common barrier for men who are living with prostate cancer– fatigue. Prostate cancer and cancer treatment can cause physical and emotional symptoms. These changes can impact one’s ability to maintain life roles such as family activities, work and hobbies.
A recent study published by Ben Langston in Supportive Care in Cancer found that “up to 74% of clients with prostate cancer reported fatigue that impacted quality of life.” http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00520-013-1751-5
A second important study published by Digant Gupta found that “level of fatigue was a top predictor of mortality and overall quality of life for clients who are living with Prostate Cancer.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708783/
So, to recognize National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we want to provide information, tools and resources that can help detect prostate cancer symptoms, help those who have already been diagnosed, prostate cancer survivors, and their family caregivers to understand and manage the fatigue that can come along with this disease.
How to Detect Prostate Cancer
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation the following are just some prostate cancer symptoms:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
If you’re experiencing any of the above you should contact your doctor immediately.
About Fatigue and Prostate Cancer
So, what is the difference between normal tiredness and cancer-related fatigue? We all experience some level fatigue and exhaustion. Cancer-related fatigue is a more intense, debilitating fatigue that can impact quality of life.
The following checklist offers common signs of prostate cancer-related fatigue. Place a check next to any symptoms of fatigue that you notice.
Prostate Cancer Fatigue Checklist
Feeling like you have no energy
Sleeping more than you normally do
Not wanting to or being able to do your normal daily activities
Paying less attention to the way you look
Feeling tired even after you sleep
Having trouble thinking or concentrating
Having trouble finding words and speaking
It is important to share any signs of fatigue with your healthcare provider because fatigue can be triggered by medical issues such as infection or pain that can often be managed.
Click to learn more: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/fatigue/Patient
Barriers to Recognizing and Treating Fatigue
The quote below from Dr. Andrea Cheville captures the challenge that healthcare providers face in recognizing and treating cancer-related fatigue.
“We found the vast majority of patients were not engaging in behavioral practices that could reduce fatigue and potentially enhance quality of life…and almost a third reported napping during the day, which can actually worsen fatigue.”
“We could be doing a much better job addressing fatigue, with more reliable instruction for patients and offering treatments that have been shown to work,” http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/12/27/cancer-related-fatigue-often-overlooked-study-finds
The most common barriers to recognizing and treating cancer-related fatigue are:
- Need for more accurate fatigue screening/assessment tools
- Need for increased client/healthcare provider awareness related to the risk and impact of fatigue on quality of life and mortality
- Clients feel their fatigue is normal and that they won’t benefit from treatment
- Clients lack access to treatment and prostate cancer support
- Family caregivers are also living with fatigue and need to take better care of themselves
Overcome Fatigue Action Plan
The following Action Plan can help you to recognize, discuss and treat cancer-related fatigue. Share your Action Plan with your care team so you can get the support that you need. Key steps include:
- Get a thorough physical exam to rule out treatable causes of fatigue such as anemia and pain. Healthcare providers who can help to recognize, diagnose and treat cancer-related fatigue include:
- Family doctor
- Nurse practitioner/Physician’s Assistance
- Wellness coach
- Physical/Occupational Therapist
- Social worker
- Click to find a healthcare provider in your area:
- Learn about Prostate Cancer Treatment Guidelines for Fatigue
- For clients and family caregivers – http://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/prostate/index.html#16
- For healthcare providers – http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=16311
- Stay active during the day
- Eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest
- Get support and take action. Fatigue can result from emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, isolation, fear, uncertainty and a sense of helplessness. Us Too and the Prostate Cancer Foundation offer support groups, education and advocacy activities that can help.
We hope that this blog provides the information, tools, support and inspiration to work with your care team to recognize and overcome fatigue.
Please use the comment bar below to share any other tools, resources or stories that you can share with us.
For more information, please review our Prostate Cancer Resources.