Cancer-related Fatigue

What is Cancer-related Fatigue?

There is an extremely high incidence of fatigue in people with cancer. It is the number one symptom reported by patients undergoing chemotherapy affecting up to 80%.[1].

Cancer-related fatigue can severely impact a cancer patient’s quality of life by depressing their mood, decreasing alertness, and significantly limiting physical activity [2]. For many people living with cancer, cancer-related fatigue may be their most distressing symptom. Unfortunately, it is usually not properly addressed by the caregiving team.

Brain fog, which also goes by the name “chemo brain”, is another distressing symptom that may frequently occur after cancer patients receive chemotherapy. A study found that the cognitive recovery after chemotherapy for breast cancer can take up to five years or more [3].

Karen L. Syrjala, the study’s lead author says that “people need to understand the extent to which the cells in their bodies have really been compromised by not only the cancer, but also the treatment.” However, by focusing on maintaining and supporting mitochondrial health, it is possible to help alleviate these symptoms.

How is Cancer-related Fatigue Linked to Mitochondrial Dysfunction?

Cancer chemotherapy drugs make up the most powerful cellular toxins used in medicine. Their goal is to kill fast growing cancer cells while imparting somewhat less toxicity to healthy cells. Unfortunately, healthy cells of the body are also affected by chemotherapy toxicity to a degree. This leads to many common chemotherapy side effects such as fatigue, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy, and anemia.

References: [1] What is fatigue or weakness? American Cancer Society. (2020)

[2] Bower, J. E. (2014, October). Cancer-related fatigue–mechanisms, risk factors, and treatments. Nature reviews. Clinical oncology.

[3] Joly, F., Lange, M., Dos Santos, M., Vaz-Luis, I., & Di Meglio, A. (2019, November 28). Long-term fatigue and cognitive disorders in breast cancer survivors. Cancers.

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