Exercise During Treatment
The value of exercise is a recurring theme in this blog (kind of in spite of myself). A few days ago, I wrote about the importance of exercise after treatment to maintain weight and a generally better quality of life. Today's entry is about the similar findings for women undergoing treatment--either adjuvant or, presumably, ongoing. When I was receiving chemotherapy, I forced myself to the gym most mornings. With a scarf around my bare head, I felt fairly conspicuous, but I also felt much better both physically and psychologically when I got home. Now, no one is suggesting that you should be running marathons or biking the length of the Cape while receiving treatment. The goal is mild to moderate, but regular, exercise.
Especially since I know some women who participated in this study, I was glad to see the results. From the Journal of Women's Health, this is an abstract by Dr. Jennifer Ligibel and her colleagues at DFCI:
Physical and Psychological Outcomes Among Women in a
Telephone-Based Exercise Intervention During Adjuvant
Therapy for Early Stage Breast Cancer •
Background: Many women gain weight after breast cancer diagnosis. Weight gain has been associated with poor quality of life (QOL), dissatisfaction with one's body, increased risk of postoperative complications, and possibly even an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence. Studies have suggested that decreases in physical activity during treatment may contribute to weight gain in breast cancer patients.
Methods: In this single-arm pilot study, 41 sedentary women with early stage breast cancer participated in a 12-week, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise intervention during adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation. The target exercise goal was 150 minutes of activity/week. Participants underwent evaluation of exercise behaviors, fitness, and psychological and anthropometric measures at baseline and after the 12-week intervention.
Results: Most participants were premenopausal, and 80% were treated with intensive chemotherapy regimens that included both an anthracycline and a taxane. In the 34 patients for whom baseline and week 12 measures were available, weekly exercise increased from 13 minutes to 116 minutes at week 12 (p<0.001). Cardiorespiratory fitness and QOL improved significantly (p<0.003 and p=0.001, respectively), and there was a trend toward improvements in fatigue (p=0.08). Participants also avoided weight gain and increases in body fat over the course of the 12-week protocol.
Conclusions: Women participating in a home-based exercise intervention during adjuvant therapy significantly increased activity and avoided weight gain, which has been associated with poor QOL and cancer outcomes in early stage breast cancer.