Join Cancer Chat from Cancer Research UK
A safe place to connect with others affected by cancer, share experiences and get support.

Call the Macmillan Support Line for free
Confidential support for people living with cancer and their loved ones.
Open 7 days a week, 8am – 8pm.
Call: 08088080000

Search Cancer Care Map
A simple, easy-to-use online resource to help you find cancer support services in your local area.

Cancer-related Fatigue

Fatigue is very common in people with cancer. Research suggests cancer related fatigue affects almost 65 out of 100 people with cancer (almost 65%).

Fatigue means feeling very tired, exhausted and lacking energy. It can be a symptom of the cancer itself or a side effect of treatment. For many, it can be the most troubling symptom of treatment and the most disruptive side effect of all.

Cancer related fatigue can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally. How long it lasts, how severe it is, and how often you might have it is different from person to person.

Here is a list of some symptoms you might have if you have cancer related fatigue:

  • lack of energy – you may just want to stay in bed all day

  • the need to rest even when you’ve done little or no activity

  • feeling you just cannot be bothered to do much

  • sleeping problems such as unable to sleep or disturbed sleep

  • finding it hard to get up in the morning

  • feeling anxious, sad or depressed

  • pain in your muscles – you may find it hard to climb stairs or walk short distances

  • feeling breathless after doing small tasks, for example, having a shower or making your bed

  • finding it hard to concentrate, even just watching TV or talking to a friend

  • finding it hard to think clearly or make decisions easily

  • loss of interest in sex

  • loss of interest in doing things you usually enjoy

  • negative feelings about yourself and others

Fatigue can be very frustrating. You and your relatives might underestimate how much it can affect daily life.

You might have to stop working or cut down your hours.

Some people feel like fatigue is a constant reminder of their cancer and this can be hard to accept.

You might worry that because you feel so tired all the time your cancer could be getting worse. But it is more likely to be a side effect of treatment, or due to the fact that cancer can cause fatigue.

Fatigue can affect the way you feel about yourself and your relationships with other people. You can feel very down and not want to go out or be with people which can be hard for them to understand.

At the start of, and during your treatment your nurse or doctor will ask about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. It’s important to tell them how you’re coping day to day and if you are struggling.

Everyday life can be difficult and you might not have the energy to cook, clean, bathe or go shopping. You might not even feel up to a chat. Things that you used to find easy to do can feel like hard work.

Coming Soon!

The personalised care team is working on a series of animations to support common concerns affecting people with cancer, including fatigue.

These will be launched in May of 2025.

Cancer and sleep

Cancer and its treatment can cause problems with your normal sleeping patterns, including insomnia.

Sleep gives your body time to rest and recover. This is important for both your physical and emotional wellbeing, particularly when you are going through treatment for cancer

It might seem normal not to be sleeping well given all the recent changes in your life, and it can be tempting to try to just put up with it. It is important to let your clinical team (nurses and doctors) know that you are having difficulty sleeping as they may be able to help

Insomnia means having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, or waking up still feeling tired. Many people affected by cancer have trouble sleeping, for lots of different reasons.

Insomnia includes having some, or all, of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep.

  • Waking up during the night or waking too early.

  • Difficulty sleeping despite good conditions for sleep – such as having a comfortable bed in a quiet, darkened room.

  • Things you do in the daytime are affected by lack of sleep – for example, problems concentrating at work, falling asleep during the day or feeling low in mood.

Lots of things can affect your sleep and cause insomnia. Some are things that can affect anyone, such as anxiety or worries. Others are more common in people affected by cancer.

Things that may affect your sleep include:

  • your bedroom being too hot, cold, too light or noisy

  • having an uncomfortable bed

  • having a poor sleep routine, or sleeping too much during the day

  • you and your partner having different sleep routines

  • smoking, or drinking alcohol or caffeine

  • not doing enough physical activity during the day

  • taking medicines that affect sleep, such as steroids steroids

  • anxiety or emotional distress

  • physical problems, such as pain, discomfort or feeling unwell.