- Special Sections
- Public Notices
For years and years, I have encouraged all of my patients to exercise and stay as active as they can.
Sometimes this is easy, but all too often, other medical problems, such as COPD and arthritis, make it very hard for many patients to exercise at all.
When this is the case, I encourage my patients to at least continue to do the things they would normally do each and every day. Numerous studies have shown the powerful effect exercise can have on cancer patients, their ability to go through their planned course of treatment and their subsequent recovery from treatment.
And now, another study shows the benefit of this philosophy, especially in patients with a history of breast and colon cancer.
For patients who have gone through breast or colon cancer treatment, regular exercise has been found to reduce recurrence of the disease by up to 50 percent. But many cancer patients are reluctant to exercise, and few discuss it with their oncologists. This data is according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
As oncologists, we often tell patients that exercise, along with a planned course of cancer therapy, is important, but nobody had studied what patients know about exercise, how they feel about it, and what tends to get in the way of exercising.
The study is part of a series of investigations looking at exercise habits among cancer patients. Researchers found patients who exercised regularly before their diagnosis were more likely to exercise while they were being treated and after they completed treatment than those who had not.
Now, this is not surprising; those who like to exercise and are accustomed to exercising on a regular basis will certainly understand the importance of exercise more than those who do not exercise. Many patients considered daily activities, such as gardening, walking to the mailbox, or cleaning the house sufficient exercise.
Unfortunately, that is not enough.
Overall, most patients felt what they did every day as part of their normal routine was exercise, and felt they did not have to do more, such as walking or swimming or biking.
Most of my patients don’t realize that daily activities tend to require minimal effort, and most were not aware that inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including symptoms of cancer.
I tell all my patients the more active they are, the better they will feel, and the more strength they will maintain. Sitting around and waiting to feel better is not a formula that works.
The researchers plan to investigate how to make the message about exercise meaningful to patients so they can optimize symptom relief and enhance recovery.
In addition, researchers found patients took exercise advice most seriously when it came directly from their oncologists, but none of those studied had discussed it with them.
Overall, the study found patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes, according to the researchers.
I know that, based upon this data, I will spend more time with my patients stressing the fact exercise can improve a patient’s mobility, enable them to enjoy activities and keep them from becoming isolated in their homes. It can contribute to overall feelings of strength and physical safety, ease cancer-related fatigue and improve sleep.
This is just one part of the puzzle of successful treatment, but it appears it is a very important piece.
Dr. C. Joseph Bennett is a board-certified radiation oncologist and a member of the Citrus County Unit of the American Cancer Society. Watch “Navigating Cancer” on WYKE TV at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and at 10 a.m. Thursdays. If you have any suggestions for topics, or have any questions, contact him at 522 N. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461, or email email@example.com.