PHYSIOTHERAPIST + DIRECTOR
Supervision is recommended during active treatment, when the frequency and type of side effects are likely to fluctuate.
Anyone who has been touched either directly or indirectly by breast cancer, knows that along with the treatment comes some unavoidable immediate and long term impacts on an individual’s health and wellbeing.
In 2017, it is estimated that breast cancer will become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. Thanks to dedicated research, diagnostic and treatment breakthroughs, survival rate after 5 years is very good (90%). Despite this, associated treatments such as breast surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immune and hormone therapy remain physically and emotionally gruelling with resulting impacts on physical function and quality of life.
Exercise therapy plays a very important role in the management of these impacts and is now recognised as a complimentary and crucial element of holistic breast cancer care.
Is exercise safe?
Research concludes that exercise is a safe and effective therapy. Regular exercise undertaken as part of treatment and into survivorship results in maintaining and/or improving:
• physical functioning (muscular mass strength, mobility, cardiovascular fitness),
• quality of life (self-esteem, body image, sleep patterns, mood) and
• minimising treatment related side effects (fatigue, nausea, bone density, weight gain, lymphoedema and pain).
When to start exercise?
The decision regarding when to start and how to maintain physical activity should consider the unique challenges facing people undergoing treatment and needs to be commenced at an appropriate level and progressed gradually.
You may start at any time during or following treatment and generally the earlier you start the better. Supervision is recommended during active treatment, when the frequency and type of side effects are likely to fluctuate.
It is important that you have discussed any plans to exercise with your treating specialist before you embark.
How much exercise is enough?
Research recommends people undergoing treatment avoid inactivity and suggests that some exercise is better than none, and more is generally better than some.
The Australian physical activity guidelines relevant to all adults (including people diagnosed with cancer), are best viewed as goals to aim for, rather than a starting point. These include:
Adults 18 – 64
• Aim for 150 to 300 minutes (2½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1½ to 2½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, each week.
• Try to do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
Adults 65 and over
• Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
• Try to be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.
Who can help?
An accredited exercise physiologist (AEP), in consultation with the treatment team, can help address common barriers to exercising during and after cancer treatment and provide exercise modification when needed.
This support can ensure you are undertaking exercise specific to your individual circumstance safely and effectively.