Managing nutritional concerns: tiredness

Anxious woman

Managing nutritional concerns: tiredness

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms experienced by patients receiving treatment for cancer. Fatigue often persists well beyond the course of active treatment. It is often described as feeling very weak, tired or having a lack of energy. Multiple factors contribute to fatigue: cancer treatments, poor nutrition, dehydration, stress, anaemia, pain and certain medications. Fatigue may cause you to struggle to perform everyday activities, have difficulty concentrating, lose your appetite or make you feel sad.1

Tips for people experiencing fatigue2,3

  • Listen to your body – schedule short naps or rest periods throughout the day and ensure you sleep for as long as you need at night
  • Keep active – taking a short walk or exercising for a short time daily can help you feel better
  • Try relaxation exercises such as stretching, yoga, massage or aromatherapy
  • Keep a diary of when your fatigue levels intensify; this can help your doctor or nurse identify factors that may be contributing to your fatigue, such as sleep/wake disturbances and other side effects
  • Plan your day so you aim to accomplish the most important activities first
  • Accept help from family members and friends to shop and prepare meals for you, run errands or do housework
  • Choose foods high in protein and calories
  • Eat small frequent meals (five or six times a day) to keep up your strength, instead of three large meals
  • Be sure to stay hydrated – most people drink a minimum of 2 litres (3.5 pints) of fluid a day
  • Try nutritional supplements or liquid meal replacements if recommended by your healthcare team

More information is available at Macmillan Cancer Support

Contact your doctor or nurse if you are not able to do your normal everyday activities, if you still experience tiredness after resting or sleeping, or you are feeling sad or depressed.


  1. Fatigue. American Cancer Society. Accessed August 2019.
  2. Elliot, L. Symptom Management of Cancer Therapies in Lesser M, Ledesma N, Bergerson S, Trujillo E, eds. Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice. Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 2013. pg 118.
  3. Macmillan Cancer Support. Managing your fatigue. 2019. Accessed August 2019.

The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a medical professional. All decisions regarding patient care should be made with a medical professional.