- Question from Marsha: Is there a harmless drug that can bring back my energy level? I had AC with Taxol, then radiation, over two years ago. I still find myself almost falling asleep at the wheel during my 45-minute trip to and from work. I have a great diet, and exercise now and then. Thanks in advance.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.
It sounds as if you are one of the people who continues to experience fatigue a long time after your treatment is over. You are also aware of your body, maybe more than you were before.
It would be important to make sure you are not experiencing other possible causes of fatigue, such as thyroid problems, sleep problems, or anemia. These may have nothing to do with your breast cancer treatment. If no physical cause can be found for your fatigue, exercising more often may help you regain your energy.
It is also possible that you are experiencing a neurological problem that we call depression. One of the most common effects of depression is a lack of energy. Depression occurs in 1 in 6 people, regardless of breast cancer history.
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
Sometimes, also, medications that treat depression can add to fatigue. Work closely with your doctor to find the best medications for you.
If you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel, then it's unsafe for you to be driving in that condition. Can you take the train, or a bus? Can you carpool with a friend until you figure things out? Will a cup of coffee do the trick? Make sure you wear your safety belt. A stop along the way to work, with a good stretch, may make a difference, too.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. I can't emphasize enough how helpful exercise can be. Despite the fact that you don't feel like it, exercising in the morning is more likely to help your energy level than exercising at night, when it can interfere with your sleep.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. You can read more about this in our section Managing Fatigue.
On Wednesday, February 18, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Chemotherapy Updates. Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about advances in chemotherapy treatment: different types of drugs and regimens, how to reduce or eliminate unpleasant side effects, and more.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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