Researchers at the Chang Gung University in Taiwan determined that women with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy benefit from aerobic exercise to reduce fatigue. The study was recently published the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), in 2013, approximately 232,340 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. During treatment with radiotherapy, women frequently experience debilitating adverse effects, diminished quality of life due to compromised physical fitness, fatigue, and psychological distress. Fatigue is a common symptom among patients with cancer when undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy, with an incidence ranging from 40–100%. However, evidence shows that aerobic exercise reduces fatigue levels in cancer survivors and patients receiving cancer treatment.
In their study titled “Effects of an aerobic exercise programme on fatigue for patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy”, Tsui-Yun Yang, Mei-Ling Chen and Chia-Chun Li, evaluated the efficacy of an aerobic exercise training aimed to lower fatigue in 58 Taiwanese women with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy (RT).
The team of researchers invited women with early-stage breast cancer scheduled for radiotherapy. A total of 28 women were enrolled to an intervention group, where they had to complete a six-week mild- to moderate intensity aerobic exercise training while they were undergoing radiotherapy. The remaining 30 women were assigned to a standard care control group without special exercise intervention. Researchers measured the levels of fatigue at pre-radiotherapy and weekly after starting radiotherapy for six weeks. Patients were assessed with the Brief Fatigue Inventory (validated version for Taiwanese population). A total of 47 women completed the study (25 in the intervention group vs. 22 in the standard care control group).
At baseline the results revealed levels of fatigue of 3.04 for the intervention group vs. 2.95 for the standard care group, with a baseline fatigue interference of 3.48 and 3.55, respectively. Data analysis performed with student’s t-test revealed no group differences in baseline fatigue severity, fatigue interference, or haemoglobin levels.
Using multivariate analysis with generalized estimating equations, the researchers found a significant group-by-time-interaction effect for fatigue severity and interference between the groups. Furthermore, results revealed that the fatigue severity and interference decreased with time for women in the intervention group but increased over time for women in the standard care control group.
Findings from this study strongly indicate that individual aerobic exercise with mild- to moderate-intensity can reduce the fatigue of Taiwanese women with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy. Dr. Tsui-Yun Yang and colleagues suggest that future investigations should assess the effects of aerobic exercise on women with breast cancer with other treatment modalities.