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New research finds that regular exercise may help improve common symptoms of cancer treatment for those with advanced stage breast cancer.
After nine months of an exercise routine combining cardio and strength training, patients reported a better quality of life and less fatigue.
Experts advise breast cancer patients to review any new exercise routine with a trusted medical professional who understands their unique health needs.
A new study finds that women undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer may experience relief from fatigue and improved quality of life through exercise.
Previous research has concluded that exercise is both possible and beneficial for people undergoing treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
But, said Jennifer Ligibel, MD, director of the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, there is a lack of research in people with advanced breast cancer.
Some studies have shown cause for concern over whether people with metastatic cancer will be able to exercise due to the advanced stage and spread of their cancer.
But this study helps confirm that exercise is possible for patients with metastatic cancer, said Neil Iyengar, MD, breast cancer and exercise oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Health,
Here’s how exercise can improve the lives of breast cancer patients, along with doctor-recommended exercises these patients can try.
Exercise shows improvement in quality of life in stage IV cancer patients
Treatment of metastatic Stage IV breast cancer generally lasts longer than that of Stage I breast cancer, making improving quality of life during treatment especially important for these patients, says Anne May, PhD, who Leading the new research, reported Health,
If a person has a type of metastatic breast cancer that is hormone-responsive, the first line of treatment is hormone therapy, which may be combined with targeted cancer medication.
For types that are not hormone-responsive, chemotherapy, usually a combination of several drugs, is used.
The new study set out to determine whether a prescribed exercise regimen could relieve some of the common side effects of these treatments, including fatigue, nausea, pain and shortness of breath.
May, who is also a professor at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center, Utrecht in the Netherlands, presented early results of the ongoing trial at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in early December.
So far, the clinical trial, which is based in Europe, involves about 360 people with metastatic breast cancer. About 180 of these patients participated in a twice-weekly planned exercise program that included a mix of aerobic and strength training.
All sessions were supervised by a physiotherapist or other exercise specialist, and most workouts took place in group settings, although sometimes people were guided during one-on-one sessions.
Ligibel said the strength of the study was the fact that the women were undergoing a variety of treatments, including both hormones and chemotherapy.
After three, six and nine months, both groups filled out questionnaires that measured their physical, mental, emotional and financial quality of life, as well as how tired they felt on a day-to-day basis.
The researchers also tested their physical fitness, asking participants to ride on a stationary bike with increasing resistance until they felt they needed to stop.
Compared to those who did not participate in an exercise program, participants who did reported less fatigue. They also reported an improvement in pain along with a better perception of their overall quality of life.
This also improved the strength of the group.
After six months, participants in the exercise group could ride a stationary bike with 13% higher resistance levels than participants in the control group. Many of these patients continued their daily routine even after completion of nine months.
The results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and more research needs to be done to determine how exercise can relieve the side effects of cancer treatment, but Iyengar said the results support exercise. are equivalent to previous tests. People with less advanced stages of breast cancer.
Exercise can improve fatigue by improving both cardiovascular and respiratory endurance by improving cardiopulmonary fitness.
There is definitely a cognitive component as well, Iyengar said. We know that exercise improves mood, memory and cognitive functioning.
RELATED: Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment
Doctor Recommended Exercises for Stage IV Breast Cancer
May advises people being treated for metastatic breast cancer to talk to their doctors before starting an exercise routine.
Activity should be individualized based on a person’s physical fitness as well as their side effects, best done under the supervision of a trusted healthcare provider.
Any physical activity is better than no activity, May said, although in general, intense exercise usually provides greater benefits.
According to Ligibel, strength training may be especially important because it is common for people to lose some muscle mass during cancer therapy.
Strength training can take many different forms; You don’t need weights, she explained. Doing core exercises and using your body weight is an exercise done to strengthen your muscles.
In addition to strength training, cardio may provide cancer patients with benefits such as relief from fatigue, Iyengar said.
May said that if fatigue increases after exercising regularly, people should talk to their doctor about ways they can adjust their workouts.
Movement, whether cardio or strength training, can be tailored to accommodate cancer side effects such as loss of movement in a limb, balance problems or neuropathy, Iyengar said.
Again, any new movement strategies should be discussed with a medical professional.
Many people will have bone metastases, Ligibel said, and evidence has shown that exercise is safe for these people, but there are also some considerations like where the metastatic lesions are and where you are putting weight. It’s important to talk to someone in a medical setting.
RELATED: How walking more and sitting less can help reduce breast cancer risk
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