Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLymphomaTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLymphomaTeam

Fatigue and Lymphoma

Updated on September 25, 2020
Medically reviewed by
Timothy Fenske, M.D., M.S.
Article written by
Alison Channon

Persistent, severe fatigue is a common symptom among people with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Fatigue can be caused by lymphoma itself, or it can be a side effect of lymphoma treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Fatigue from cancer or cancer treatment is called cancer-related fatigue. Unlike other tiredness, cancer-related fatigue cannot be resolved with a good night’s sleep.

Cancer-related fatigue can significantly impact day-to-day life. MyLymphomaTeam members share how fatigue interferes with daily activities:

  • “Trying to take a shower wears me out.”
  • “I am normally a very active and high energy person. Now it's a chore to shower.”
  • “Most days I have to MAKE myself vacuum, wash clothes, and do other chores.”

What Causes Fatigue in Lymphoma?

Cancer-related fatigue is the result of many intersecting variables. “Fatigue is tricky,” explained Dr. Timothy Fenske, a hematologist-oncologist who specializes in treating people with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “It can be a symptom of lymphoma. It can be a side effect of treatment. It can also be a sign of other problems that may be related or unrelated.”

The following factors can contribute to fatigue in people with HL or NHL:

  • Side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count), which may be caused by cancer cells in the bone marrow or by chemotherapy
  • Dehydration from treatment side effects like vomiting and diarrhea
  • Side effects of anti-nausea medications used to address chemotherapy side effects
  • Strong pain medications used to manage cancer-related pain
  • Muscle weakness from inactivity
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor appetite

Life circumstances, like undergoing treatment while working and raising children, were found to increase fatigue in a study of women with breast cancer.

Persistent Fatigue After Lymphoma Treatment

In some cases, fatigue persists for months or even years after the end of lymphoma treatment. Persistent fatigue after treatment is a particular problem for lymphoma survivors who’ve received high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplants.

“Sometimes post-treatment, people will have some fatigue that can linger for months or even in some cases a year later,” Dr. Fenske said. “Some people might be in remission, they're done with treatment, but they never quite got back to where they were pretreatment.”

Members of MyLymphomaTeam report lingering fatigue after completing treatment. “Hubby is FINALLY starting to get his energy back six months after his last chemo,” a spouse on MyLymphomaTeam wrote. Another member commented, “I have been tired for six years. I don't think you ever get over that.”

Treatment for Fatigue

When discussing fatigue with your doctor, they will try to understand the various aspects of your overall health, your treatment, and your lifestyle that may be contributing to your tiredness. Your doctor will ask questions to understand how fatigue is impacting your daily activities. You may be asked to rank your fatigue levels, and the doctor may order a blood test to check for anemia.

Dr. Fenske explained, “We have to separate out what's just normal fatigue because the person’s got three little kids or a stressful job, and now they have cancer on top of it, and what's actually a serious side effect, or maybe even a sign of their lymphoma coming back.”

“You have to put it in context to try to figure out what level of fatigue we are dealing with and how persistent it is,” Dr. Fenske added.

Depending on your circumstances, treatment for cancer-related fatigue may include:

  • Treatment for anemia
  • Pain management
  • Treatment for depression, including antidepressant medication and therapy
  • Other medications to manage fatigue
  • Dietary supplements

Lifestyle Strategies for Managing Fatigue

Your doctor may recommend strategies like regular exercise and healthy eating to help you manage chronic fatigue and improve your quality of life.

Exercise

Physical activity during and after treatment for lymphoma can help improve your energy levels. One MyLymphomaTeam member shared, “Working through the pain and moving around seems to actually make me feel better than sitting.” It’s important to consult your health care team before starting a new exercise program, especially if your lymphoma has spread to your bones.

Nutrition

Consulting a nutritionist or dietitian can help you ensure you’re taking in enough nutrients, especially if cancer treatments are causing nausea or vomiting. “Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of fluids,” one member recommended to another battling fatigue.

Read Diet and Lymphoma: Nutrition Tips for Feeling Your Best, which includes tips from registered dietitian Kimberly Mugler for fighting anemia and dehydration.

Sleep

Getting adequate rest at night and taking short naps during the day — a half hour or less — can help manage fatigue. Long naps during the day can sometimes make you feel more tired and interfere with nighttime sleep. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can also help reduce fatigue.

Find What Works for You

The best way to manage severe fatigue will vary from person to person. Finding ways to take care of yourself and prioritize your most important tasks can help you balance rest and activity.

MyLymphomaTeam members have different approaches to finding balance. “I do what I can, when I can. I am not pushing myself,” a member posted. Another member commented, “I rest when I need to, but I refuse to change my social activities.”

By joining MyLymphomaTeam, you gain the support of more than 5,400 people living with lymphoma. Members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Fatigue is one of the most discussed topics.

Can you relate? How do you cope with fatigue? Share your tips in the comments below or start a conversation on MyLymphomaTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Timothy Fenske, M.D., M.S. is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Froedert Hospital/Medical College of Wisconsin. Learn more about him here.
Alison Channon has nearly a decade of experience writing about chronic health conditions, mental health, and women's health. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is one of the main broad categories of lymphoma. NHL consists of...

Signs and Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is one of the main broad categories of lymphoma. NHL consists of...
Night sweats are a common symptom of lymphoma. Sweating can occur in either of the two main types...

Sweating and Lymphoma

Night sweats are a common symptom of lymphoma. Sweating can occur in either of the two main types...
Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma (LRHL) is a less common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. (Hodgkin...

Early Signs and Symptoms of Lymphocyte-Rich Hodgkin Lymphoma

Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma (LRHL) is a less common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. (Hodgkin...
Lymphoma often includes many uncomfortable or painful symptoms, including aching joints or bone...

Aching Joints With Lymphoma: What Helps?

Lymphoma often includes many uncomfortable or painful symptoms, including aching joints or bone...
Lymphoma often makes it difficult to sleep. Many people who have lymphoma deal with disrupted...

How Does Lymphoma Cause Sleep Problems?

Lymphoma often makes it difficult to sleep. Many people who have lymphoma deal with disrupted...
Bone pain is a common symptom of lymphoma. As one MyLymphomaTeam member wrote, “I struggle with...

Bone Pain and Lymphoma

Bone pain is a common symptom of lymphoma. As one MyLymphomaTeam member wrote, “I struggle with...

Recent articles

Burkitt lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that grows very quickly. People who are...

Understanding Treatments for Burkitt Lymphoma

Burkitt lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that grows very quickly. People who are...
Primary thyroid lymphoma (PTL) is a rare type of cancer. Also called primary lymphoma of the...

Understanding Primary Thyroid Lymphoma

Primary thyroid lymphoma (PTL) is a rare type of cancer. Also called primary lymphoma of the...
Hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL) is a type of cancer that affects cells of the immune system...

What You Need To Know About Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis

Hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL) is a type of cancer that affects cells of the immune system...
After being diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, many people want to better understand their prognosis...

B-Cell Lymphoma Prognosis: Fear, Hope, and Understanding Survival Rates

After being diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, many people want to better understand their prognosis...
Natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. NK/T-cell lymphoma is also...

Natural Killer/T-Cell Lymphoma: What You Must Know

Natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. NK/T-cell lymphoma is also...
Relationships tend to shift with a major life change like a lymphoma diagnosis. Friends and...

When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Lymphoma

Relationships tend to shift with a major life change like a lymphoma diagnosis. Friends and...
MyLymphomaTeam My lymphoma Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close