By John Salak –
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women worldwide, accounting for about 30 percent of all diagnoses. More troubling still is that the problem is growing, increasing by about half a percent a year, according to the American Cancer Society.
This means about one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes and of those, 2.5 percent will die from the disease, BreastCancer.org reports.
The good news is that the fight against breast cancer has made strides in recent years, giving increased hope to women who develop the disease. Yet some of the treatments, especially radiotherapy, can exact a heavy price. Cancer-related fatigue along with negativity can undercut a patient’s emotional, physical and social well-being.
Researchers out of Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia, however, have discovered that exercise can make radiotherapy more tolerable.
The university’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute discovered this by tracking how 89 women dealing with radiotherapy responded to a 12-week program, consisting of resistance training sessions and aerobic exercise. Approximately half the women exercised, while the other half acted as a control group.
Those who exercised recovered from cancer-related fatigue quicker during and after radiotherapy compared to those who didn’t. They also saw a significant increase in quality-of-life issues following radiotherapy.
The bottom line: home-based resistance and aerobic exercise proved to be a safe, feasible and effective way to speed recovery, the researchers noted.
“A home-based protocol might be preferable for patients, as it is low-cost, does not require travel or in-person supervision and can be performed at a time and location of the patient’s choosing,” explained Professor Rob Newton, the study’s supervisor. “These benefits may provide substantial comfort to patients.”
The program was designed to increase in intensity over time, with the ultimate aim of getting participants up to Australia’s recommended activity levels.
“However, the exercise programs were relative to the participants’ fitness capacity, and we found even much smaller dosages of exercise than those recommended in the national guidelines can have significant effects on cancer-related fatigue and health-related quality of living during and after radiotherapy,” explained Dr. Georgios Mavropalias, the study’s leader.
Surprisingly, most participants that began an exercise program stayed with it even after the 12-week formal study ended.
“Thus, apart from the direct beneficial effects on reduction in cancer-related fatigue and improving health-related quality of life during radiotherapy, home-based exercise protocols might result in changes in the physical activity of participants that persist well after the end of the program, ” Mavropalias said.