Cancer has unfortunately become a reality in many people’s lives. It may be life-threatening, but very often is not. When one is diagnosed, one must make a decision whether to fight the cancer or let it take over. How you decide to tackle the condition will determine your journey.
Virtually all people with cancer can benefit from exercise therapy. Because cancer is such a complex condition and there are so many different forms of cancers, each individual case must be carefully considered. The type of cancer present, the stage of therapy or remission in which the individual is in, and the type of anti-cancer therapy being received together with their side-effects need to be assessed when prescribing exercise. Both the goals of and the response to exercise therapy will differ from one individual to the next depending on the above-mentioned factors. Exercise prescription is, therefore, complex and must be carefully individualized according to a person’s specific needs and abilities.
Tumours can be found anywhere in the body and their effect on exercise ability is directly related to the tissues that are affected by the tumour. The following exercise responses must be considered for specific cancers:
· Tumours of the musculoskeletal system – pain is common in the affected tissues.
· Tumours in the lungs – shortness of breath.
· Tumours in the brain or central nervous system – neural deficits and seizures.
· Tumours involving the bone marrow – anaemia (low red blood cell count).
Fatigue is frequently experienced by most cancer patients; however, exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve mood, functional ability, and quality of life. The following benefits of exercise have been found in cancer patients who participated in regular, moderate-intensity, aerobic exercise during their cancer treatment:
· Reduced fatigue
· Greater body satisfaction
· Maintenance of body weight
· Improved mood
· Improved tolerance to side-effects of anti-cancer medications
· Improved quality of life
Exercise therapy is safe and beneficial for those with cancer, provided the exercise programme is specifically tailored to an individual’s type of cancer, needs and abilities. The following goals should be considered depending on where an individual is in their treatment:
· Currently receiving treatment for localized cancer – maintain strength, endurance, and current level of physical function.
· Cancer survivors in remission or cured – return to prior level of physical function, with exercise forming part of an active lifestyle.
· Recurrent or metastatic disease – maintain mobility and functional ability to perform daily activities.
The side-effects of anti-cancer treatments play a major role in how an individual feels from one day to the next. Thus, the general health of the individual should be assessed every day before starting exercise and appropriate adjustments made.
So, whether you are suffering with cancer, or you know someone who is, speak to your physician about starting a regular exercise programme. Then speak to a biokineticist to assist you in this process.
ACSM’s Exercise Management for Person’s with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities