Everyone describes fatigue after prostate cancer treatment a bit differently. Some men say they’re drained or weary all the time. Others say that they are completely exhausted most of the day.
The key difference is that fatigue goes beyond occasional tiredness. It’s like your energy has been completely zapped—making it harder to sleep, work, hang out with friends and family. Prostate cancer fatigue can have a draining impact on with everyday life. It's not usually the kind of sleepiness that you can push through by getting a good night of sleep, or with a cup of coffee. This feeling of being drained can linger for a long time, sometimes even months or years. Simply just being tired, on the other hand, usually goes away after resting up a bit.
People describe this type of fatigue as ‘whole-body tiredness’.
Almost everyone diagnosed with cancer experiences fatigue, as cancer itself is a lot on the body. Fatigue is so common, that about 3 in 4 men with prostate cancer go through it.
It’s tricky because a number of things can bring on fatigue when you’re going through prostate cancer treatment.
For example, it’s common to feel worn down due to:
Not having enough sleep or rest.
Eating poorly and not getting the right amount of exercise.
Stress, anxiety, or depression.
Aches and pains from treatment.
Body or hormonal changes from treatment.
Take time to listen to your body and better understand where your exhaustion may be coming from. Work with your doctor or care team to understand what you can expect before, during, and after treatment and how to best manage your energy supply going forward.
Treatment can have a large impact on your body and mind, and just might be the reason why you feel exhausted.
All prostate cancer treatments can cause fatigue but it can be worse with:
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy).
More than one treatment at the same time.
Below, read more on how each treatment can take its toll.
During chemo, your energy levels will probably be up and down. Your doctor will tell you how many rounds of chemo you’ll have and how many weeks your sessions will last. Fatigue can make this time challenging. And as you have more sessions, the fatigue can start to feel worse.
After finishing a whole course of chemotherapy, prostate cancer fatigue can last a few weeks or even a bit longer. But once you’re done, most men find their energy levels improve. Even with this improvement, however, it can feel like the fatigue is lingering on for a while.
There are many types of hormone therapy. Depending on which kind you have, and how long you’re on it, the fatigue can vary.
If you’re on hormone therapy for a few months, you might find the fatigue gets better soon after treatment.
If you’re on hormone therapy for a while and the fatigue is hard to deal with, talk to your doctor. You may be able to take a break from therapy if the cancer isn’t growing. This break will give you a chance to lessen the fatigue effects and get some relief.
Hormone therapy can also affect your everyday abilities and desire to move around. It’s important to work through it and stay physically active to keep up your strength. Proper rest, nutrition, and exercise will also be key—according to your doctor or care team’s guidelines.
Both types of radiation therapy (external beam radiation and brachytherapy) for treating prostate cancer can cause fatigue. Those tired and drained feelings can start while you’re getting therapy but sometimes they don’t happen until afterwards.
Some men find that fatigue lasts for weeks but it can go on for months.
After surgery, you might be exhausted and not in the mood to move around. And that’s completely understandable—your body has just been through a lot.
To help you heal faster and to reduce fatigue, your doctor or care team will probably want you doing some light activity, like walking, soon after surgery. Moving can give you an energy boost, keep your mind active, and also help with constipation. Constipation (not being able to poop easily or empty your bowels) is uncomfortable and can be stressful for your body.
After surgery, fatigue can last a few weeks or even a bit longer.
Different types of immunotherapy can leave you very tired afterwards. They can also make you feel sick to your stomach and feel like you need to throw up. Staying hydrated and getting enough rest is critical.
Note: Immunotherapy is not offered in every country. Check with your doctor if you’d like more information about how it works.
People on active surveillance often don’t have many physical problems but they may still deal with anxiety, stress, and depression. These issues can make it harder to stay active and take care of yourself—and put you at risk for fatigue. If you’re feeling exhausted all the time, it’s also possible there’s something else going on. Talk to your doctor about fatigue and what you can do to regain energy.
On its own, watchful waiting does not cause fatigue. Since the cancer isn’t being actively treated, your body is not being put through the stresses of treatment or recovery. Still, cancer itself can bring about anxiety, stress, and depression, making it tough to eat well, feel rested, and keep up your energy.
Eating well before, during, and after treatment is key. Vegetables, nuts, fish, healthy fats—all these (and more) are important sources of nutrition when you’re going through prostate cancer.
Keeping active with light to moderate exercise could also help improve your energy levels. It’s important to get your body moving. To help you get started, talk to your doctor or care team about having a nutrition and workout plan created that will work just for you. There are also several steps you can take to stay safe during exercise.
If you’ve been feeling excessively tired, whether physically or emotionally, let your doctor or care team know. They can guide you towards getting proper rest, nutrition and exercise, and any other help you may need.