Exercise and Different Types of Cancer
Every four minutes an Australian is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer can have a devastating effect on people’s lives – not just their physical and mental health, but also their family, work and social life. Exercise is commonly accepted as important in maintaining good health and reducing the risk of chronic disease. A growing body of research has shown exercise to be a very effective medicine for people with cancer to take in addition with their anti-cancer treatments.
Depending on the cancer, the stage of disease, and time since diagnosis, will help to determine which exercise would be best suited to you.
Listed below are some benefits and information on exercise effect in common cancer sites.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among females. Treatment typically involves surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or a combination of the above. These treatments can be successful at removing cancer cells and tumours, often they lead to physical side effects that may affect your function and require some modifications to exercise.
- After breast surgery, pushing exercises may be difficult, along with reaching with arms over the head. It is recommended to include upper limb flexibility and range of motion exercises before strengthening to reduce the risk of injury, improve upper body functioning, and have greater long-term benefits.
- Radiation and surgery can cause damage to lymph nodes, which can result in lymphedema. It was thought that exercise exacerbates lymphedema symptoms, but recent evidence suggests that exercise is safe for those with lymphedema and may even improve symptoms. The process of muscle contraction can return fluid flow back through the nodes and reduce swelling.
- Another common side effect of treatment is a decrease in bone mineral density and loss of muscle mass, leading to an increase in risk of falls and fractures. Resistance training is recommended to increase bone mineral density, muscle mass and overall strength.
Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. Lifestyle choices can affect risk of bower cancer, and there is convincing evidence to suggest that being physically active can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Treatment depends of whether the disease has spread or is likely to spread. Treatment for bowel cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation depending on the severity of the tumour.
- Exercise during and after treatment improves overall strength and function, reduces frequency and severity of treatment related side effects, and helps to maintain a healthy body composition.
- Exercising with a colostomy bag is no reason not to exercise. A clearance from your GP is recommended for those with stomas prior to participation in certain types of exercise. Contact sports are not recommended due to risk of injury. Resistance exercise should be started at a low resistance and gradually built up over time to reduce the risk of a hernia at the stoma site.
Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death among men and women. There is a strong relationship between smoking and lung cancer, with smoking accounting for almost 90% of cases. Treatment of the disease is dependent on the severity and progression of the disease and can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or a combination of treatment.
- Exercise is safe for people with lung cancer and can help to manage side effects of lung cancer treatments. Exercise in the weeks before lung cancer surgery can improve outcomes and reduce complications. Exercise post-surgery can improve recovery time and reduce time to return to ADL’s
- Recommendations for exercise for those with advanced lung cancer are to remain as active as possible and avoid long periods of inactivity – a little bit is better than none
- Exercising after lung cancer can help to reduce shortness of breath and reduce risk of return of cancer or chronic disease
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among males. Some of the treatments have debilitating side effects affecting both physical and mental capability. Exercise is both safe and effective for those who have survived prostate cancer. A combination of resistance training and aerobic training can reduce and almost reverse the treatment-related side effects.
- One of the most common treatments for prostate survivors is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). The side effects of this can be a reduction in testosterone levels, decreased bone mineral density, muscle atrophy, fatigue and insulin resistance. Prostate survivors undergoing ADT who complete regular resistance and aerobic based exercise regularly can expect to see improvements in muscular strength, physical function, and quality of life.
- Prostate cancer survivors can also experience losses in bone mineral density and muscle mass, usually as a result of ADT coupled with physical inactivity. This leads to an increase in fall and fracture risk. Progressive resistance training is recommended to restore bone mineral density, improve muscle mass and overall function.
For more exercise recommendations or for an assessment with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist you can contact Pottsville and Cabarita Physiotherapy on (02) 6676 4000 or (02) 6676 4577.