The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy depend on the patient and the dose, but one of the Most limiting effects for them is fatigue in children with cancer.
It is very common to hear adolescents and children with cancer say that they feel tired, fatigued, without the desire or strength to do anything. When healthy people have that feeling, we solve it with a correct diet and the necessary hours of rest, but in cancer patients this is not the case.
Dimeo observed in his study that 70% of cancer patients suffer fatigue during chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, as well as 30% of survivors maintain it years after treatment.
Doctors are trying to learn more about why treatments cause fatigue. Some studies show that it is due to:
- Need for additional energy to repair and heal the tissue of the body damaged by the treatment.
- Accumulation of toxic substances that remain in the body after the treatment kills the cancer cells.
- Changes in the sleep-wake cycle.
What is this cancer-associated fatigue? It is a multifactorial phenomenon, consisting of a subjective feeling of fatigue, in which we find various psychosocial factors (emotional disorders related to the state of health) and physiological (side effects of treatment such as anemia, nutritional and hydration imbalances, disorders of the sleep, effects of damaged tissues and toxicity in certain organs).
All this leads to children with cancer and adolescents not wanting to move, favoring the development of muscle atrophy with the corresponding loss of strength, known as sarcopenia.
If we add each of these factors, effects of treatment + illness + detraining (not doing physical activity), it leads us to a vicious circle that favors the increase of said fatigue, but how can we see in the drawing (from a publication by Alejandro Lucía ), the way to break it is through training.
Adapted from Lucía et al. Lancet Oncol. 2003 Oct; 4 (10): 616-25.
Several studies have shown the effect of exercise to alleviate fatigue. That is why it is increasingly common for doctors to recommend moderate physical activity for 3 to 5 hours per week to help improve cancer-related fatigue, but always done with an exercise professional.
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