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Understanding Fatigue

This booklet contains a thorough examination of coping strategies and causes of myeloma fatigue, as well as suggestions for discussing fatigue with your doctor. Myeloma patients may experience fatigue caused by the disease, by treatment, and by the understandable anxiety and/or depression that affects many.  

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In healthy people, fatigue is understood as exhaustion or tiredness that interferes to some extent with normal everyday activities. It usually occurs after strenuous or prolonged exertion of some kind and is temporary. Rest and refraining from strenuous activity can help restore energy and make a healthy person feel better.

Fatigue that is related to cancer and its treatments, however, is different and more severe than normal fatigue and tends to last longer. Simply resting does not alleviate the fatigue. This type of fatigue has been defined by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network as “a distressing, persistent, subjective sense of tiredness or exhaustion related to cancer or cancer treatment that is not proportional to recent activity and interferes with usual functioning.” Asthenia, the medical term for weakness or the loss of physical strength, often accompanies, or is a component of, fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue may also be associated with difficulty concentrating, dizziness, or a disinterest in what is going on around you.

In patients with multiple myeloma, fatigue and asthenia can be the result of many individual or collective causes. You should report persistent fatigue and/or weakness to your healthcare providers and not simply assume that they are an unavoidable consequence of your diagnosis and treatment.


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