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Topic: Is radiation fatigue worse than chemo fatigue?

Forum: Radiation Therapy - Before, During, and After —

What to expect from treatment and ways to cope with side effects.

Posted on: Oct 10, 2019 06:01PM

stenorio1221 wrote:

My RO has explained to me that the radiation fatigue is very bad especially for folks like me that have had chemo, surgery then radiation. I was able to work through my 20 weeks of chemo therapy (4 weeks of AC and 12 weeks of Taxol). Most of the time I worked 6-8 hours a day. I will be having 6 weeks of radiation. The RO told me that most folks who have chemo before radiation aren't able to work at all during the last few weeks of radiation.

Has your experience been that the radiation fatigue is worse than the chemo fatigue? I just want to prepare myself (and my employer) if it is the case.

Thanks for your insight.

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Oct 10, 2019 06:26PM TB90 wrote:

Stenotio:1221: First of all, I am very impressed that your RO acknowledges SE from radiation. So many women on these boards feel that radiation SE’s are minimized or even denied. I did not have chemo, so my situation really is not relevant, but so many women over the years on these boards also state that compared to chemo, rads was easy. Hope others chime in, but because you already have done so well, I think the odds are that you may manage rads very well also. Just want to add that rads for me were very doable. I easily could have worked through them but had to travel 4 hours daily in Feb in Manitoba, Canada for treatments. My challenge was the weather. But I treated myself daily with a flower from the hospital gift shop each day and enjoyed a house full of flowers to get through it. Hugs to you.

Dx 11/28/2013, DCIS, Grade 2 Surgery 12/18/2013 Mastectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 2/20/2014 Breast
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Oct 10, 2019 07:40PM - edited Oct 10, 2019 07:45PM by Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To me they were two very different experiences. Chemotherapy did not made me tired but rather body aches (in addition to the nausea, neuropathy, etc.) I am finishing the radiation and what gives me is very sleepy (I have to take a nap necessarily) but there's not physical fatigue or pain, except in the irradiated area of course. A vitamin B complex can help a lot. They hae also told me that the fatigue of rads was cumulative, and in my case it was not so. I have experienced the same amount to "sleepy" from day 1 until today that was my session 29 of 33. Good luck!

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Oct 10, 2019 07:52PM - edited Oct 10, 2019 07:54PM by Legomaster225

I too had chemo, surgery then radiation. I did not have any significant fatigue during radiation although it was mentioned as a possible side effect. My side effects from chemo were tolerable. I worked from home through my treatments so it maybe a different situation and I am an accountant so my job is not at all physical. The hardest part of radiation for me was the skin breakdown during the last couple weeks. I was glad I was home at that point so I could just wear a loose T-shirt.

Diagnosed at 50. Currently 53. Oncotype score 39. One node positive at diagnosis negative after preadjuvent chemo. Bilateral cancer discovered at BMX. Left breast was supposed to be prophylactic. :-( Dx 12/3/2016, IDC, Right, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 1/19/2017 AC + T (Taxol) Dx 6/22/2017, IDC, Left, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 1, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 6/22/2017, DCIS, Left, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 6/22/2017 Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right; Reconstruction (left): Silicone implant; Reconstruction (right): Silicone implant Radiation Therapy 8/22/2017 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall Hormonal Therapy 10/17/2017 Hormonal Therapy 9/9/2018 Aromasin (exemestane)
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Oct 10, 2019 07:55PM Spookiesmom wrote:

I think it’s a different kind of fatigue. With chemo you may feel yucky. Both times with rads for me, I was tired from going Every.Single.Day. I’d want to lie down, but not necessarily sleep. Just rest. As said above, I am surprised your RO even mentioned it. Most don’t.

Reoccurrence 3-19. Dx IDC, Stage IIIA, Grade 3
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Oct 10, 2019 08:28PM DogMomRunner wrote:

I had surgery, chemo and now rad therapy. So far the fatigue and other SE are different from each other. With chemo, I was also nauseated and I think that took more out of me. Radiation is every day and I have to get up earlier in the day to get there and then get to work. I worked full time during chemo and I am working full time through radiation.

Of course your mileage may vary, as they say. Good luck

You ain't run far enough to say My legs have failed You ain't gone far enough You ain't worked hard enough You ain't run far enough to say It ain't gonna get any better. Nathaniel Rateliff Dx 4/24/2019, DCIS/IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/8 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+ (FISH) Surgery 5/17/2019 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel Targeted Therapy 6/6/2019 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 6/6/2019 Taxol (paclitaxel) Radiation Therapy 9/22/2019 Whole-breast: Breast
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Oct 10, 2019 09:11PM ElaineTherese wrote:

Compared to chemo, rads were boring. I did get pretty red and felt like I had a sunburn. But, the worst part of rads for me was the positioning. They kind of push you around on the table like a piece of meat. (Plus, I had a male rad technician -- very nice, but still.) Chemo was more social. A friend came with me to infusions so it was a big gossip session. Also, we got to know some of the other patients, and how they were doing. Good luck!

DX IDC June 28, 2014, 5 cm., 1 node tested positive (fine needle biopsy); 0/20 after neoadjuvant chemo + ALND; Grade 3; ER+ PR+ HER2+ Neoadjuvant chemotherapy starting 7/23/14 ACX 4, Taxol X 12, Perjeta X 4; Herceptin: one year Chemotherapy 7/22/2014 AC Targeted Therapy 9/16/2014 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Targeted Therapy 9/16/2014 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 9/16/2014 Taxol (paclitaxel) Surgery 1/11/2015 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Underarm/Axillary Hormonal Therapy 2/24/2015 Aromasin (exemestane), Zoladex (goserelin) Radiation Therapy 3/8/2015 Breast, Lymph nodes
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Oct 18, 2019 06:35AM Colleencoombes wrote:

Wonder if anyone can help. Last year I had surgery for a Ductal Invasive Breast Cancer stage One. I had radiotherapy for 15 sessions over Three weeks. I was very lucky as I didnt get the burn, but felt unwell during my treatment. I am just over a year since I finished my Radiotherapy, but now I am feeling extremely achy and like I have the flue and also very tired all the time. I have to go to the breast unit next week for a check up and see weather it has returned and how the site of surgery has healed. Is this fatigue normal after all this time. I would appreciate some help here if anyone can help. Thank you.Happy

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Oct 18, 2019 07:37AM Ingerp wrote:

I had very little fatigue with rads, literally 2-3 times each time I went through it. I noticed it mostly hit after I'd had a really big day (in 2016 we were getting our house/property ready to host a wedding--busy times!). I didn't have any fatigue with chemo. Feeling tired/heavy from chemo is very different. With fatigue, I have an overwhelming need to get off my feet.

Colleen--I had a weird thing happen a few weeks ago. I was at a wedding and started to feel *so* weird--again, that overwhelming desire to get off my feet. It wasn't until the next morning that it dawned on me that was fatigue! I've been out of rads for almost a year. No idea at all why it hit me, and it's only been that one time since I finished rads.

Dx 3/11/2016, DCIS, Left, 6cm+, Stage 0, Grade 3, ER-/PR- Surgery 3/23/2016 Lumpectomy Surgery 4/20/2016 Lumpectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 5/18/2016 Whole-breast: Breast Dx 3/2/2018, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (FISH) Surgery 3/13/2018 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Targeted Therapy 5/18/2018 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 5/18/2018 Taxol (paclitaxel) Radiation Therapy 8/20/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Oct 18, 2019 08:39AM GraceB1 wrote:

I didn't feel unwell like I did during chemo but the fatigue was real. I had to stop and take a nap on my way home from appointments and I only lived 20 minutes away.

Grace B I'm just special - primary neuroendocrine, less than .001% of all breast cancers. Start each day with gratitude. Dx 6/10/2013, Right, 6cm+, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 2/11 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (FISH) Chemotherapy 7/11/2013 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 1/7/2014 Lymph node removal: Right, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right Targeted Therapy 2/11/2014 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Radiation Therapy 3/3/2014 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 5/17/2014 Arimidex (anastrozole) Hormonal Therapy Femara (letrozole)
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Oct 18, 2019 10:39PM msphil wrote:

hello sweetie I say for myself both were draining I had to take leave of absence from my job at city medical center I worked at. Both made me extremely exhausted tried to work at first but couldn t walk to back of clinic without holding on wall went to our nurses station doctor there recommended I go home and take leave. msphil idc stage2 0/3 nodes 3mo chemo before and after Lmast got married bald and all thank God for my now husband of 25yrs then 7wks rads then 5yrs on Tamoxifen

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Oct 18, 2019 11:10PM ruthbru wrote:

As you can see from the comments above, everyone's experience is different, and I don't think you can predict what will happen. For me, radiation was a piece of cake compared to chemo. I actually felt my energy returning. My tip would be, no matter how you feel, to get some light exercise every day. It will help with whatever fatigue you may feel (and if you don't feel fatigue, it will jump start your return to normal). Best of luck!

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 19, 2019 12:03AM - edited Oct 19, 2019 12:05AM by MinusTwo

I too had chemo/surgery/more chemo then radiation. I drove myself every day for 5 weeks. It was the relentlessness & the driving distance that was most exhausting. I wasn't really fatigued until the last week or so, but then I truly was dragging.

Colleen - sorry I meant to address your post. You didn't include your treatment dates - but you said a year out? If you already have an appointment for next week, I would try not to worry until then.

2/15/11 BMX-DCIS 2SNB clear-TEs; 9/15/11-410gummies; 3/20/13 recurrance-5.5cm,mets to lymphs, Stage IIIB IDC ER/PRneg,HER2+; TCH/Perjeta/Neulasta x6; ALND 9/24/13 1/18 nodes 4.5cm; AC chemo 10/30/13 x3; herceptin again; Rads Feb2014
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Oct 19, 2019 12:08AM thisiknow wrote:

Those with radiation fatigue, let us know how many days of treatments you had... and where along that line you began to experience fatigue. Thanks for everyone posting here

Age 72 @dx - Oncotype 4 Dx 8/2019, DCIS/IDC, Both breasts, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (FISH) Radiation Therapy 10/28/2019 Whole-breast: Breast Surgery Lumpectomy: Left, Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel
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Oct 19, 2019 02:43AM Polly_Ester wrote:

I have chronic fatigue and could never tell a significant increase in my normal fatigue while on radiation.

I remember just feeling so much better that I was done with chemo. Compared to chemo, radiation was nothing.


Dx 2/2015, Right, <1cm, Stage IIA, ER+, HER2- Chemotherapy 4/22/2015 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 2/5/2018 Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary Radiation Therapy Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Oct 19, 2019 07:28AM Ingerp wrote:

I’ve had both protocols (20 sessions in 2016; 33 sessions last year) and, again, it was just a few individual days for me. It’s not like it was cumulative. The first time was several weeks in, on a Sunday, and I realized I’d been doing a lot of yard work the day before. Fatigue is very different from being tired. It’s not something you can power through. I needed to listen to my body and get off my feet for an hour or two—then I’d feel better. I’m sure many women get through without any fatigue.

Dx 3/11/2016, DCIS, Left, 6cm+, Stage 0, Grade 3, ER-/PR- Surgery 3/23/2016 Lumpectomy Surgery 4/20/2016 Lumpectomy: Left Radiation Therapy 5/18/2016 Whole-breast: Breast Dx 3/2/2018, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (FISH) Surgery 3/13/2018 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Targeted Therapy 5/18/2018 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 5/18/2018 Taxol (paclitaxel) Radiation Therapy 8/20/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Oct 19, 2019 10:07AM VL22 wrote:

For me chemo was an absolute nightmare, so in comparison radiation was a breeze. The going every day for 33 sessions was obviously tiring, but I did not have fatigue. Hopefully, the same experience for you.



Dx 5/5/2017, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 6/15/2017 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Dx 6/23/2017, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IB, Grade 3, 1/2 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 8/10/2017 AC + T (Taxol)
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Oct 19, 2019 11:44AM - edited Oct 19, 2019 11:56AM by mike3121

How long does radiation fatigue last? My wife is TNBC with extensive bone mets. In May she had several violent seizures; the cancer had gone to her brain, the Dura (brain lining). What followed was a brain operation and the most cancerous portion of the Dura was removed and a titanium mesh installed. Next she had 11 days of WBR. After that she went back on her Halaven. However she kept having seizures. It seems there's scare tissue left in the brain and that is enough to cause seizure. A recent MRI showed the cancer gone.

My wife is extremely exhausted. She's so exhausted and frail her MO has halted all chemotherapy and recommended palliative care then hospice. She has no energy and sleeps all day. Her anti-seizure meds, Keppra, also cause fatigue. After several months I see no change. I've tried lot's of things but nothing, well pain pills, is the only thing that sort'ta, kind'da works.

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Oct 19, 2019 04:45PM gb2115 wrote:

I did not do chemo, but did 6 weeks of radiation. I think the fatigue started by the end of the first week along with weird nausea that they denied could possibly exist. It was like morning sickness without the vomiting. The fatigue got worse as time went on but I seem to remember it was really only at the end of the week. Like Friday afternoon and evening were the worst. By Monday morning I felt a lot better. I was also working full-time (ish)---I left early a lot of days, I have a job where no one really cared as long as my work got done.

Dx IDC in October 2016, stage 2A, 1.2 cm ER/PR+ Her2-, Grade 2, 1/3 nodes. Mammaprint low risk luminal A, Lumpectomy + radiation + tamoxifen. Age 38 at diagnosis.

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