EXERCISING AFTER BREAST CANCER
Exerise is a stategy for surviving & thriving beyond breast cancer
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women – it is highly likely that you will either know a breast cancer survivor, or perhaps you are one yourself. Fortunately, 89 out of 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer survive five or more years beyond diagnosis, but the impact of treatment can persist even after remission has occurred. The good news is that appropriate exercise can assist with the changes to the body associated with treatment and significantly improve quality of life. Exercise is not only safe after breast cancer, it is now considered an essential part of management before, during and after treatment. Read on to discover the top four reasons why exercising with breast cancer should be included at all stages.
1. EXERCISE BOOSTS MENTAL PROCESSING SPEED.
With or without chemotherapy, many breast cancer survivors report a decline in brain function which affects memory, thinking and concentration. A study from the San Diego School of Medicine in 2017, found that incorporating 12 weeks of regular exercise showed more than double the improvements in cognitive processing speed than those who did no physical activity.
2. EXERCISE ALTERS TUMOUR GENE EXPRESSION.
Emerging research presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in 2016 have confirmed what has been found in animal studies for years – exercise in humans changes the genetic makeup of tumour cells. Study participants in the exercise intervention showed upregulation of the processes responsible for tumour cell death and downregulation of the processes responsible for tumour growth.
3. EXERCISE PREVENTS THE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE IN BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS.
For women with non-metastatic breast cancer, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. In 2016, research detailed in the Journal of Clinical
Oncology reported that regular exercise results in a substantial reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular events, coronary artery disease and heart failure.
4. EXERCISE IS VITAL DURING CHEMOTHERAPY.
Studies show that being physically active during chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer improves fitness, quality
of life, chemotherapy completion rate and disease-free survival. The recommendations from the research were to complete 3 x 60 minute sessions per week during this time, incorporating a mixture of strength and aerobic exercise.
THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE.
Although breast cancer treatment is associated with changes in the body, mind and energy levels, exercising with breast cancer must be considered to preserve wellbeing and assist at a cellular level during treatment, recovery and beyond.
The Breast Cancer Network of Australia has compiled a fantastic resource outlining available exercise options which are all overseen by qualified health professionals. At a local level, the simplicity of going for a walk with a friend or jumping in the water for a swim are also highly effective ways to keep exercising with breast cancer.
Jennifer Smallridge is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Upwell Health Collective in Camberwell, Victoria; as well as an Academic Lecturer in the fields of Exercise Science and Functional Human Anatomy.