- Question from Mary: I am 6 months post wide excision and radiation. Sometimes I am so exhausted. Am I still feeling radiation effects?
- Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. There are no residual radiation in you, that is, you were never radioactive, most likely; but the draining effect of the daily radiation treatment over weeks, that comes on top of the scare of the diagnosis, the surgery, and some people, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy--all together--combine to take your energy away. It can take a long time to recover from these accumulative effects. Also, I find that just the disruption of your every day routine to make room for these treatments can really throw off the rhythm in your life. You may find yourself no longer exercising properly or eating well or doing the things that you enjoy doing. Many of these things may have been what gave you a flow of energy when things felt more normal.
- Lillian Nail It is not unusual for women in our studies to tell us that they still feel more tired than they think they should 6 to 8 months out of radiation therapy. That tends to get better over time but a lot of women still tell us they still feel some fatigue up to a year out of treatment.
- Russell Portenoy These syndromes of prolonged fatigue after treatment—including radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy—are not well recognized by many physicians. If a physician tends to ignore the complaints or simply offers reassurance that everything is fine when the fatigue is severe enough to interfere with function, a patient should not be concerned about insisting on the kind of evaluation that we spoke about before or the possibility of seeking another opinion from a physician who would take the complaint more seriously.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Don't worry about "complaining" when you are describing fatigue to your health care taker although it can sometimes feel like that, but as Dr. Portenoy said, the only way they will know that you are feeling so fatigued is if you tell them.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Ease Fatigue, Boost Energy. Lillian Nail, Ph.D., R.N., Russel Portenoy, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about ways to manage fatigue and increase energy levels.
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