Cancer Prevention Burnout Is Real. Here’s How to Avoid It

You already know that cancer treatment is exhaustive. There’s the physical, emotional, and mental toll chemotherapy takes on the body, not to mention its toll on your family and relationships. Burnout from cancer therapy is not the same as clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, this is a severe problem. Cancer treatment burnout is common. It’s important to know the signs and ways to prevent it.

What is cancer treatment burnout?

Cancer treatment burnout is a term describing the emotional exhaustion that people who have cancer experience as they go through their treatment. It’s also been used to describe the fatigue caregivers of people receiving cancer treatment experience.

Burnout can happen at any point in your cancer journey, and it doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. Burnout can happen if you’re a cancer patient or a caregiver for someone receiving treatment.

The most common time is the first year after diagnosis, but it can happen anytime. It usually occurs because someone has been dealing with their illness for a long time and doesn’t have the energy to continue going through the same kinds of treatment again and again.

What are the symptoms of cancer treatment burnout?

Identifying symptoms of cancer treatment burnout can be difficult because they can vary from person to person. However, some common symptoms may indicate that you or someone you know may be experiencing cancer treatment burnout.

These include:

  1. Emotional Symptoms: Depression, anxiety, sadness, or hopelessness.
  1. Behavioral Symptoms: Irritability or anger; isolation from others; poor communication skills; poor decision-making skills; difficulty thinking clearly.
  1. Physical Symptoms: Fatigue; changes in appetite (increase or decrease); insomnia (difficulty sleeping); muscle pain.
  1. Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating or remembering things; trouble making decisions.
  1. Spiritual Symptoms: Feelings of despair and helplessness about life’s meaning and feeling disconnected from God and your religious community.

If any of this sounds familiar to you—or if you have any other symptoms we haven’t mentioned here—it might be time to talk to someone about getting help.

Is cancer treatment burnout the same as clinical depression or PTSD, or anxiety?

The short answer is no.

Cancer treatment burnout can differ from clinical depression or PTSD; both are mental illnesses. It’s also different from anxiety, which is a feeling of worry and fear.

You might be wondering: how can cancer treatment burnout differ from these other things? The answer lies in the way that a person experiences these symptoms. Some people experience all three simultaneously, but others don’t.

Cancer treatment burnout can be caused by a lack of sleep, stress, and exhaustion from fighting cancer, but it can also be caused by something else entirely: a lack of control over your life. If you feel like things are going on in your life that you can’t control—like being sick or having an illness like cancer—it can lead to anxiety or depression.

That’s where cancer treatment burnout comes in. Cancer treatment burnout is when you feel overwhelmed with what life has given you, and it takes over your mental state so much that it affects your physical and emotional health. You may have trouble sleeping or staying calm during the day because of how much energy it takes to get through another day alive.

What causes cancer treatment burnout?

One of the leading causes of cancer treatment burnout is the emotional toll that cancer takes on you. The diagnosis can be devastating, but once you start getting treatment, you will likely experience side effects that can worsen your feelings. For example, if you’re going through chemotherapy, it’s normal for your hair to fall out or feel sick for weeks. These things are unpleasant in their own right, but they also make it hard to keep up with work or other responsibilities in life.

Another common cause of cancer treatment burnout is financial strain. If medical bills are piling up because of how much time and energy it takes to get treatment—and if those bills add up quickly—it’s easy to feel like there’s no way out of this situation. That stress can affect your mental health and even lead to depression or anxiety if left unchecked for long enough!

Finally, one more factor that causes cancer treatment burnout is simply having too much on your plate without adding more stressors into the mix! When we have too many things going on at once (good or bad), our brains cannot process them all, and we end up overwhelmed. 

How can you prevent running out of steam during cancer treatment?

Cancer treatment can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. But you don’t have to let the treatment fatigue get you down. Here are some tips to avoid exhaustion during cancer treatment:

1) Get enough sleep. Sleep is critical to your health and can help you stay energized throughout cancer treatment. It’s vital to get the right amount of rest, so try to go to bed at the same time every night, even if you don’t feel tired. 

2) Eat well-balanced meals. Make sure each meal has at least one serving of protein, one serving of complex carbohydrates (like whole grains), and one serving of vegetables or fruit. This will help keep your energy levels up and active throughout the day.

3) Exercise! Even if it’s just going for a walk around the block or doing some stretches while watching TV—do something that gets your heart rate up a little bit every day. This will help reduce stress levels and build up your stamina so that when things get tough (like when your hair starts falling out from chemo), it won’t feel too much effort to get through them!

4) Accept all kinds of support. What do we mean by this? We suggest that no matter what type of support you need—whether emotional or financial—you should accept it when it comes your way. And if someone offers to help with something related to your treatment, don’t be shy about letting them! Friends and family members are often ready and willing to step in and lend a hand when they see how much you’re struggling.


Cancer treatment burnout is prevalent, and it’s important to know the signs and ways to prevent it. Together with your doctor, there are several things you can do to help yourself get through cancer treatments. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying positive is the best way to stay on the right track. We recommend following the tips above to prevent running out of steam during cancer treatment.


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