Fatigue is a constant feeling of tiredness accompanied by a lack of motivation that is not relieved by rest or sleeping. Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and its treatments.

What causes fatigue?

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Constant worrying / anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Pain
  • Anemia
  • Medication
  • Difficulty sleeping at night
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of exercise

What happens when people are fatigued?

  • Feeling drowsy
  • Physical weakness
  • Fevers / chills
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Being short tempered

What should I eat when fatigued?

When fatigued, eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fiber, and lean protein and low-fat dairy products along with staying hyrdrated.

Drink plenty of fluids, include beverages with calories

  • Water
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Skim, 1%, 2% milk

Variety of vegetables

  • Mixed greens
  • Kale
  • Sweet potatoes

Fruit varieties

  • Plain fruit salad
  • Watermelon

Whole grains

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bran

Lean protein

  • Chicken breast
  • Grilled salmon

Unsaturated fats

  • Unsalted trail mix
  • Avocado
  • Almonds, peanuts


  • Minestrone soup
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Beans
  • Hummus

Dairy Products

  • Greek yogurt
  • Homemade smoothies

What should I NOT eat when fatigued?

When fatigued, avoid eating foods and drinks with high amounts of sugar, fats, and simple carbohydrates and excess caffeine.

Sugary foods / fluids

  • Regular soft drinks
  • Fruit punch
  • Sweetened ice teas
  • Cakes/pies/cookies
  • Candy
  • Pastries (doughnuts, muffins, bagels)
  • Packaged cereals with marshmallows, honey, additional sugar

Excess Caffeine

  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Black tea
  • Caffeinated soda
  • Coffee-flavored ice ceam/shakes
  • Milk chocolate

Fast food/processed foods

  • Hamburgers
  • Fried chicken
  • Fried fish
  • Hot dogs
  • French fries
  • Take-out pizza
  • High sodium foods/canned foods
  • Potato/corn/tortilla chips

What else could I do when fatigued?

Try to have regular, light exercise

  • Take short walks
  • Housework
  • Gardening
  • Spend time away from the computer, TV, phone

Get enough rest

  • 3-4 short naps/rest times a day

Manage stress

  • Watch a favorite movie
  • Read a book
  • Talk with a friend

Eat 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and 2 snacks daily

Ask your doctor before taking vitamin/mineral/energy supplements

When should I call my healthcare provider about my fatigue?

  • If you follow the recommendaitons and do not feel improvements after 3-4 days
  • If you are too tired to do things you need to care for yourself (eating, bathing, using the bathroom)
  • If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others

What are the different types of fatigue?


How is fatigue treated and/or managed?