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Fatigue and pancreatic cancer

Many people with pancreatic cancer have fatigue at some stage during their cancer and treatment.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness. It isn’t the same as simply feeling tired. It can be a constant feeling of weariness or it can come on suddenly from one minute to the next, for no apparent reason. You may feel weak, unable to concentrate, or have problems sleeping.

Resting or sleeping may not help, so fatigue can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. It can limit your ability to do everyday activities and enjoy life. 

What causes fatigue?

Fatigue may be caused by the pancreatic cancer, be a result of symptoms caused by the cancer, or be a side effect of treatment.

  • Problems with diet and digestion or diabetes can make fatigue worse.
  • Symptoms such as pain and being sick, can also make fatigue worse.
  • Fatigue can get worse during treatment and go on for several months after treatment finishes, sometimes longer.
  • Some medications, such as opioid painkillers, can add to fatigue.
  • Depression can be linked to fatigue in people with cancer.
  • Any problems sleeping can also make your fatigue worse.

What can I do about fatigue?

Speak to your doctor or nurse if you have fatigue. There are ways to manage it, so don’t assume it’s something you have to put up with. These include keeping a diary of your fatigue, gentle physical activity, and complementary therapy. Read our tips for managing fatigue. There is emotional support  available to help you cope with fatigue.

Family and friends can provide a lot of support, but it can be difficult for them when a loved one has fatigue. There is also support available to help them cope.

“I don’t think people understand the difference between tiredness and fatigue. Tiredness is when you want to sleep but with fatigue you can’t do anything.”

“I’ve had tiredness before, I’ve had sleepless nights with my daughter, but it is a whole different level, a whole different ball game, utterly draining.”

Questions to ask

  • What is causing my fatigue?
  • Who can help me manage fatigue?
  • What can I do myself to help manage fatigue?
  • What support is there to help me cope?

Read more about what causes fatigue

Find out more about things you can do to manage fatigue

Read about other support available to help you cope with fatigue

Published October 2017

To be reviewed October 2019

Information Standard