Mesothelioma patients often experience chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue may be caused by anxiety, stress, or changes in diet or sleeping patterns. It may also be a side effect of chemotherapy. This type of fatigue is far beyond the normal tiredness that most of us feel from time to time. Fatigue prevents mesothelioma patients from carrying out even the simplest daily tasks. It is not relieved by rest, and may become an impossible challenge to live with on a day to day basis. Indeed, simple tasks like getting out of bed may become an insuperable task. Together with the general lack of physical energy, fatigue can be emotional and psychological as well.
Causes of fatigue in mesothelioma
1. Chemotherapy: medications that constrict the growth of cancer cells also harm healthy cells. The most affected are usually the Red Blood Cells. This results in anemia, which is a decreased ability of the blood to convey oxygen to the tissues. Lack of oxygen results in the formation of lactic acid, particularly in the muscles. This gives rise to the sensation of fatigue.
2. Sleep disturbances: because of pain, mesothelioma patients often do not sleep well. This results in fatigue during the day.
3. Radiotherapy: this also causes damage to cell tissues. The body requires more energy to repair these tissues, depleting the energy supply.
4. Loss of appetite: under nutrition decreases energy supply.
5. Disruption of digestive functions: peritoneal mesothelioma disrupts the ability of the body to process food. Hence, less nutrients and energy reaches the tissues and organs of the body, resulting in the feeling of fatigue.
6. Breathing difficulties: pleural mesothelioma restricts the ability of the lungs to take in air. Hence, less oxygen reaches the blood and the tissues have a restricted supply of this vital element. This results in incomplete combustion of glucose, forming lactic acid.
Minimizing the effects of fatigue
Feelings of exhaustion and weariness can be greatly diminished through a few simple steps:
(i) Avoiding non essential and burdensome tasks: conserving one s energy is essential to combat cancer. Hence, it is critical to delegate tasks that can be performed by others in order to lessen the stress on the body.
(ii) Light exercise: this improves blood circulation and decreases symptoms of depression.
(iii) Balanced diet: proper nutrition ensures that the body receives an adequate amount of all nutrients to fulfill its normal tasks as well as fight the disease. Water is a crucial component of the diet and should be drunk at recommended amounts. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol should be avoided to maximize on the chances for a good night s sleep.
(iv) Rest: short naps during the day go a long way to help the patient recover from the stress associated with mesothelioma.
If the patient is working, he may need to adjust his work life to suit the new challenge of mesothelioma. Changes like altering work times to avoid traffic or choosing work from home solutions may go a long way to decrease the general fatigue associated with the disease.
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