July 13, 2024
Cancer Management And Exercise

Cancer can be treated in different ways, depending on the type of cancer and the disease progression. Most patients require a combination of treatments, including medical oncology, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy, and more. Amongst these treatments, a vital part of cancer management is exercise.

Many patients with cancer become deconditioned, both due to the disease itself and the side effects of treatment. Exercise can help to improve physical and mental well-being, reduce side effects like fatigue, and improve survival rates. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, especially in breast and colon cancer patients.

Barriers To Exercising With Cancer

However, there are many barriers to exercising with or after cancer, from the side effects of cancer treatment to the psychological factors that contribute to a decrease in activity. This may include pain, fatigue, difficulty getting motivated, and uncertainty. According to guidelines, the aim should be to return to normal daily activities as soon as feasible after a cancer diagnosis, including aerobic exercise, resistance training, stretching, and balance. Exercise has many benefits and can be safely implemented under the guidance of a trained healthcare provider.

The Benefits Of Exercise

Research has shown the exercise can have widespread benefits for patients with or after cancer. Some of the benefits of exercise include:

  • Improve cancer-related fatigue
  • Positive effect on physical function
  • Improve mood and stress levels
  • Reduce symptom distress
  • Lower risk of sarcopenia
  • Manage lymphoedema
  • Prevent injury
  • Promote independence
  • Maintain a health body weight
  • Improve health-related quality of life

Exercising With Cancer

It is important to consult a trained health professional, such as a doctor or physiotherapist, prior to beginning any exercise interventions. Physiotherapists are ideally positioned to support and guide cancer patients and survivors. A physio can develop a tailored exercise program that is safe and appropriate for each individual patient, taking into consideration the patient’s diagnosis, medical treatment, and functional capacity. They can also offer specific instructions and progressions to optimise the positive outcomes on fitness levels, quality of life, and health status.

There are many different types of exercise that can be beneficial for cancer patients, including aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching. Physiotherapy interventions may also include assessments, advice and education, and rehabilitation. With the guidance of a physiotherapist, these can be safely incorporated into a cancer management plan.

Contraindications To Exercise

Whilst exercise is promoted for most patients with cancer, there are some contraindications and precautions. When in doubt, it’s best to consult the medical team before starting exercise, particularly for those after surgery, those with bone cancer, or those with implanted devices (e.g., for chemotherapy).

Physical Activity Is A Helpful Part Of Cancer Management

Cancer is responsible for millions of deaths each year. Exercise is a vital part of cancer management and has many benefits, including for symptoms, physical fitness, and quality of life. There are many therapeutic exercise options for cancer patients and survivors under the guidance of trained health professionals, such as physiotherapists.

Always consult a health professional before starting any type of exercise program or using new training equipment.