Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of a brain tumour diagnosis, with 3 in 5 people affected by it, according to the Brain Tumour Charity. The causes of the fatigue might be directly related to the neurological condition, and it might be the result of the emotional and psychological stress of the diagnosis.
A brain tumour, such as an acoustic neuroma, may grow in an area of the brain where there are vital links which control the nerve functions to the rest of the body. The tumour can press on these nerves, interfering with essential functions such as sight, balance, speech, concentration, and hearing.
The extra effort to complete activities which once were undertaken without a second thought can become extremely tiring. The patient will at the same time be coming to terms with the practical and emotional implications of a brain tumour diagnosis. Of course, brain tumours affect everyone differently, and not everyone will experience fatigue.
Some people may have mild or no symptoms, while others find that it is the debilitating consequence of their diagnosis. The levels of fatigue can vary according to the time of day, and they may fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.
Fatigue is characterised by a lack of energy, sleep problems (either too much or too little), an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion, aching muscles, and becoming tired even after carrying out short activities or tasks.
Some of the symptoms may mirror those of depression, such as irritability, loss of interest in hobbies, poor concentration, low self-esteem, and an inability to make decisions. It may cause anxiety, social withdrawal, and problems with relationships. The shock of diagnosis and the extra stress placed on the body during treatment can exacerbate the problem.
A natural instinct in this situation might be to take more rest than usual, but this won’t have any impact on chronic fatigue. Friends and family can find this a difficult thing to understand, especially because there are no outward physical symptoms of the problem. So, how is the situation best addressed?
It is important to talk to your healthcare team if you are struggling. While there is no cure, there may be some ways to help you manage the fatigue. The British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA) recommends pacing activities, so that you carry out only the most essential tasks, and take regular breaks.
Over time, you may find that certain tasks are more tiring than others. If this is the case, identify those which make your fatigue worse and if possible, ask for extra help from family or friends.
Ensuring that you drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated is important, especially if your normal eating patterns have been disrupted. Eating a well-balanced diet with slow release carbs can help to boost energy levels. If possible, try and maintain a regular bed time and getting up time, and take light exercise if your condition allows.
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