Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cancer Patients Benefit From Exercise

I am honored to post an article written by one of the followers of my blog. Reading it really hit home me. Many of you are unaware that I had a large benign tumor removed from my neck over this past summer.  Although it was not cancerous.  I had to complete 6 weeks of daily radiation, countless CT scan and MRI's, not to mention a difficult surgery that left me with an 8 inch scar. I can attest, as you will read below, to the benefits explained. Being the fitness nut that I am, I tried not let it get me down and neither should any one else.  Thanks again Liz for letting me post your article. 

There was a time when doctors were more likely to prescribe bed rest than exercise for adults facing a cancer diagnosis, but those days are gone. Many cancer researchers now believe patients can benefit from embracing exercise instead of avoiding it.

The evidence supporting an active lifestyle for cancer patients and survivors has been mounting in recent years with the release of several positive research studies and updated guidelines for cancer patients.

A British charity,
Macmillan Cancer Support, recently reviewed 60 studies and surveyed more than 400 health care workers about the value of exercise during cancer treatment. The group’s 2011 report, called “Move More,” said breast cancer patients could reduce their risk of recurrence or death from the disease by 40 percent if they maintained a recommended exercise level. The report said physical activity also could help bowel cancer patients to reduce their risk of death or recurrence by half and it could help prostate patients to reduce their risk of dying by 30 percent. 

Those are dramatic numbers when you consider that many patients traditionally have been instructed to reduce exercise after undergoing cancer treatment. In a statement about the recent report, Macmillan Chief Medical Officer Jane Maher noted, if physical exercise was a new drug, its benefits “would be hitting the headlines.”

Similar conclusions about the value of exercise to cancer patients were included in national guidelines developed by a panel of the
American College of Sports Medicine in 2010. The 13-member panel analyzed research studies about various cancers and found exercise could improve muscle strength, aerobic fitness, fatigue and life quality in prostate, breast and hematologic cancer patients. In the future they are planning to study the effects of exercise for other types of cancers like pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and rare types like peritoneal mesothelioma. So far there have only been positive results.

The panel suggested that cancer patients should aim for the same level of physical activity that is recommended for most of us – about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. However, the guidelines suggest that age, fitness, individual diagnosis and other factors should be considered when developing an exercise regimen. Some types of exercise might be more appropriate than others based on these factors, and some patients may feel too weak for physical activity at certain times.

The American Cancer Society also touts the benefits of physical activity for cancer patients who are able to exercise. Exercise can lessen fatigue, keep muscles strong, decrease nausea and lower the risk of broken bones, among other health benefits. However, the cancer society advises that it may be prudent for some patients to reduce physical activity if it causes pain, shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat or other health problems. 

Every cancer patient should consult his or her physician before adopting an exercise program. The cancer society has developed a list of safety tips and precautions for those who want to get the most from exercising. Go to this link for advice about starting out:

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.