Cancer and Fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue is common, occurring among approximately 16% to 38% of cancer survivors post-treatment. Anyone who has gone through Cancer treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy) knows that fatigue can have a major impact on your day to day activities. Here are some signs of post-cancer fatigue:
- You have no energy.
- You feel weak.
- Your tiredness doesn’t get better with rest or sleep.
- You spend more time in bed and/or sleep more. Or, you may have trouble sleeping.
- You stay in bed for more than 24 hours.
- You become confused.
- You can’t concentrate or focus your thoughts.
- You have trouble remembering things.
- Your tiredness disrupts your work, social life, or daily routine.
- You feel sad, depressed, or irritable.
- You feel frustrated, irritable, and upset about the fatigue and its effects on your life
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Researchers (see Goedendorp et al., 2014) have been working to find effective treatments for cancer related fatigue. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one such treatment. CBT focuses on exploring relationships among a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It's used to treat both psychological and physiological conditions, often to help with coping mechanisms and to break bad habits that may perpetuate or worsen symptoms.
Let's walk through an example for the case of cancer fatigue. A person recovering from cancer may have the thought "Since Chemo I just have NO energy." As a result, someone might choose an unhealthy behavior such as staying in bed much of the day. In addition to the physiological consequences (i.e., loss of muscle tone), he or she could then experience feelings of sadness or guilt.
Individual CBT for Cancer Fatigue
A first step in treatment is to learn how to spot negative beliefs and their effects in terms of emotional, behavioral, and physical consequences. Next involves learning to use new behavioral strategies for managing fatigue, such as changing how you schedule activities. Other components such as "Activity Pacing", sleep hygiene, hypnosis, and relaxation skills areintroduced throughout treatment. The typical duration is 12-16 weeks and involves meeting weekly with a therapist and doing "homework" throughout the week.
At first the process can seem challenging, as change usually is, but after a few weeks you will likely find yourself feeling more positive emotions and getting back to doing the things that matter to you the most. I invite you to make the call and see if CBT is right for you!