New research shows that exercise, both during and after treatment for breast and prostate cancers, is a safe and effective way of improving physical strength and life quality in patients.
The findings come from two independent studies, were recently presented at this year’s American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Research Conference. They help to explain how aerobic and resistance exercise may improve the physical and mental health of patients during cancer treatment, known to impact both these health measures.
“The cancer experience – from diagnosis through treatment – has persistent effects that can last for years,” Brian Focht, PhD, one of the study’s authors and director of the Exercise and Behavioral Medicine Lab at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a news release. “As more and more people are successfully getting through cancer treatments, survivors are experiencing significant effects that meaningfully compromise their physical function and quality of life, along with heightening their risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.”
Although cancer survivors are advised to exercise and be active, it is not clear how exercise influences different types of cancer, or which its effects on patients undergoing treatment.
“What we are seeing in our studies is there are clear benefits to cancer patients implementing an exercise program as soon as possible,” Focht said.
Researchers in the study, “Effects Of Exercise Interventions During Different Treatments In Breast Cancer”, published in the Journal of Community Support Oncology, analyzed 17 randomized and controlled trials, involving 1,175 breast cancer patients under chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Each trial investigated the effect of exercise interventions — aerobic or resistance training, or a combination of the two — on these patients.
The trials ranged from three to six months, were supervised or home-based, and compared results between patients given an exercise program and those receiving only standard care. Analysis showed that, on average, breast cancer patients who exercised considerably improved their muscular strength, and also improved cardiovascular function and quality of life compared to those who did not exercise.
“The results of this review suggest that exercise is a safe, feasible, and efficacious intervention in breast cancer patients who are undergoing different types of treatment,” the study concluded. “Additional research addressing the different modes of exercise during each type of treatment is warranted to assess the comparable efficacy of the various exercise modes during established breast cancer treatments.”