Over the past few years, we’ve seen numerous studies that have shown the important role exercise can play in improving quality of life after a cancer diagnosis.
And we’ve known since 2005, that exercise might reduce the risk of a breast cancer recurrence a finding that has been affirmed in more recent studies. (Studies have also shown that exercise and weight loss are key to breast cancer risk reduction.)
But many breast cancer patients are reluctant to exercise, due to fears that it might sap their energy or increase their risk of developing, or worsen symptoms of, lymphedema. And as a recent study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found, oncologists aren’t always taking the steps necessary to dispel these fears. Not only is it uncommon for oncologists to talk to their patients about exercise, but when they do, they don’t always take the time to give their patients specific suggestions about the type of exercise that might be best for them.
Studies have shown that women who exercised before their breast cancer diagnosis are more likely to exercise during and after treatment. But it’s important for women who have never exercised or who weren’t exercising to know that there are many reasons to start exercising after a cancer diagnosis.
If your doctors haven’t asked you about your exercise routine, you should certainly raise the topic. It’s also important to ask specific questions. Not everyone thinks of exercise in the same way. Your local cancer center may offer special programs, or be able to refer you to someone who does. In addition, there are now YMCAs at 24 cities nationwide that offer Livestrong at the YMCA programs for adult cancer survivors taught by instructors trained in the elements of cancer, post rehab exercise, nutrition, and supportive cancer care. (Many of these classes are free.) You can learn more about these programs here.
Researchers are also conducting clinical trials that are investigating which types of exercise programs are best for breast cancer survivors. You can learn more about and how to enroll in these studies here.
The Love/Avon Army of Women is currently helping researchers find breast cancer survivors who are interested in these two exercise studies:
The BEAT Cancer Program Study
Open to breast cancer survivors who live near the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Urbana, IL OR Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. You can learn more about this study here.
The Stepping STONE (Survivors Taking on Nutrition & Exercise) Study
Open to Black and African-American survivors living in the Washington D.C. area. You can learn more about this study here.
As you can see, there are lots of opportunities to get moving!