The Benefits of Exercise During Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer


Benefits of Exercising During Radiotherapy for Breast CancerBy: David Mizrahi, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, specializing in exercise during chemotherapy and ovarian cancer.

Common side-effects of radiotherapy (RT) are fatigue, pain, shoulder instability, cardiac damage and reduced quality of life. The majority of these side effects will be improved by engaging in aerobic physical activity. An article published in 2008 by Ji Hyi Hwang in South Korea worked with breast cancer patients after surgery, who were about to commence RT.

Protocol:

  • Exercise consisted of 3x 50 minute sessions a week for 5 weeks
  • Each 50 minute session consisted of:
  • 10 minute warm up
  • 30 minutes exercise (treadmill walking, cycling, strength exercises, shoulder stretching)
  • 10 minute cool down (relaxation)

The main results were as follows:

Exercise RT

On each figure, the left bars indicate the non-exercising control groups – who experienced reduced quality of life, increased fatigue and worse pain

The right bars indicate the exercising group – who experienced IMPROVED quality of life, IMPROVED fatigue and HIGHER pain threshold. This is a two-fold swing right here. Furthermore, the exercising group had better upper arm flexibility – which is vital to be able to continue doing normal activities at home – driving, washing, going to shops, lifting things etc!

Here is the link below to the article:

http://synapse.koreamed.org/Synapse/Data/PDFData/0069YMJ/ymj-49-443.pdf

If you or somebody you know is undergoing or about to undergo radiotherapy, provide support, ask them to go for a walk with you. Go at their pace, doesn’t matter how fast, it is better than nothing. Once confident and building endurance, then you can start to go faster and you will start embracing some of the great benefits. Walking is safe and does not require supervision. If you wish to have a weights program prescribed to you, consider speaking with your physiotherapist, or certified exercise physiologist.

As always, please comment, ask questions, go for a walk, share this blog with a friend or family member, follow me and stay positive.

Additional Research:
Effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Effects of Supervised Exercise Therapy in Patients Receiving Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer
Suggested Reading:
Stretching For Cancer Survivors

David Mizrahi About David Mizrahi: David currently works as a Clinical Research Associate at The Sydney Children’s Hospital. David is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and received a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales.

Advice For Contacting David: Interested in consulting with oncology patients, as well as setting up exercise-based programs in hospitals and oncology clinics. Contact me for more information – E: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au or M: 0404177629.

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Comments

  1. Cancer is never something that is expected in a life but when it comes, I find that the situation can stay livable through a positive attitude. I have a friend who is going through radiotherapy for her breast cancer and I am looking for ways to support her. It is good to know that physical activity is still an option for her and that this can even improve her side effects of fatigue and pain. I will be investing time into helping my friend with these efforts.

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