Cardio, Strength Training May Be Beneficial For Stage IV Breast Cancer Patients, Study Finds

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  • New research has found that regular exercise can help improve common symptoms of cancer treatment in advanced-stage breast cancer.

  • After nine months of a regular exercise regimen that combined cardio and strength training, patients reported a better quality of life and less fatigue.

  • Experts recommend breast cancer patients review any new exercise routine with a trusted medical professional who understands their unique health needs.

Women treated for metastatic breast cancer may experience relief from fatigue and improved overall quality of life through exercise, a new study finds.

Previous research has concluded that exercise is both feasible and beneficial for people undergoing treatment for earlier-stage breast cancer.

But, there has been a lack of research done on people with advanced breast cancer, says Jennifer Ligibel, MD, director of the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Some studies have shown cause for concern as to whether people with metastatic cancer can exercise because of the advanced stage and spread of their cancer.

But this study helps to confirm that exercise is feasible for patients with metastatic cancer, Neil Iyengar, MD, a breast cancer and exercise oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said. Health.

Here’s how exercise can improve the lives of breast cancer patients, as well as doctor-recommended exercises these patients can try.

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Stage IV Cancer Patients See Increased Quality of Life With Exercise

Treatment for metastatic stage IV breast cancer usually takes longer than for breast cancer in earlier stages, which makes improving quality of life during treatment particularly important for these patients, said Anne May, PhD, who is leading the new research, Health.

If the type of metastatic breast cancer a person has is hormone-responsive, the first line of treatment is hormone therapy, which can be combined with a targeted cancer drug.

For types that do not respond to the hormone, chemotherapy is used, often a combination of several drugs.

The new study set out to determine whether a prescribed exercise regime could relieve some common side effects of these treatments, including fatigue, nausea, pain, and shortness of breath.

May, who is also a professor at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center, Utrecht, in the Netherlands, presented early results of the ongoing trial at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in early December.

So far, the clinical trial, based in Europe, includes about 360 people with metastatic breast cancer. About 180 of these patients participated in a planned twice-a-week exercise program that included a mix of aerobic and strength training.

All sessions were supervised by a physiotherapist or other exercise expert, and most workouts took place in group settings, though occasionally people were guided in one-on-one sessions. that session.

Ligibel said a strength of the study was the fact that the women underwent different treatments, including both hormones and chemotherapy.

After three, six, and nine months, both groups answered questionnaires that measured their physical, mental, emotional, and financial quality of life, as well as how tired they were on a daily basis. basis.

The researchers also tested their physical fitness, asking participants to ride a stationary bicycle with increasing resistance until they felt the need to stop.

Compared to those who did not participate in the exercise program, participants who did reported less fatigue. They also reported having a higher perception of their overall quality of life, as well as improved pain.

The strength of this group has also improved.

After six months, participants in the exercise group could ride a stationary bike with a 13% higher resistance level than those in the control group. Many of these patients continued their work after nine months.

The results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and more research needs to be done to determine exactly how exercise can alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment, but Iyengar said the results is on par with what previous trials have shown for exercise in people with less advanced stages of breast cancer.

By improving cardiopulmonary fitness both cardiovascular and respiratory stamina exercise can improve fatigue.

There is also a definite cognitive component, says Iyengar. We know that exercise improves mood, memory, and cognitive function.

Related: Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatments

Doctor Recommended Exercises For Stage IV Breast Cancer

May recommends people undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer talk to their doctors before starting an exercise routine.

Movement should be individualized, based on a person’s physical fitness as well as their side effects. This is best done under the supervision of a trusted health care provider.

Any physical activity is better than none, May said, although in general, vigorous exercise often yields more benefits.

According to Ligibel, strength training can be particularly important because it’s common for people to lose some muscle mass while undergoing cancer therapy.

Strength training can take many different forms; you don’t need a weight, he explained. Doing core exercises and using your own body weight is exercise meant to strengthen your muscles.

In addition to strength training, cardio can provide benefits to cancer patients, such as relieving fatigue, Iyengar said.

If fatigue increases after exercising regularly, people should talk to their physician about ways they can adjust their workouts, May added.

Movements, whether cardio or strength training, can be tailored to accommodate the effects of cancer such as loss of movement in a limb, balance issues, or neuropathy, Iyengar says.

Again, any new movement strategy should be discussed with a medical professional.

Many people will develop bone metastasis, and evidence has shown that exercise is safe for these people, but there are considerations such as where the metastatic lesions are and where you put weight, Ligibel said. That means talking to someone in a medical setting.

Related: How Moving More and Sitting Less Can Help Lower Breast Cancer Risk

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