Newsletter Article

Exercise After Cancer Treatment

Cancer survivors can experience various long-lasting effects from their disease and treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. Studies show that for many different types of cancer survivors, a combined resistance training and aerobic exercise program can provide several benefits specific to symptoms that occur after cancer treatments.[1] A combined program can help reduce fatigue levels and improve muscle strength, endurance, and perceived quality of life.

Patients who undergo breast cancer surgery often experience severe arm and shoulder function, including pain, numbness, and a limited range of motion.[2] A recent study looked at women who had undergone breast cancer surgery and were put into a post-op standard care (SC) group or a standard care plus yoga group. Standard care consisted of materials such as exercise instructions for arm and shoulder mobilization. The yoga group also received a yoga DVD. Over 6 months, the SC group reported following the exercises more often than the yoga group. For the SC group, 69% improved their Quality of life and arm movement at 10 weeks and 6 months. Within the yoga group, 62% improved at 10 weeks and 82% improved at 6 months. The yoga group also had lower reports of affected arm numbness. Yoga may not be a traditional method of care, but it could be as effective or even more so compared to the normal standard of care.

During recovery from lung cancer surgery, cancer-related fatigue is a common severe symptom, and it can affect other symptoms as well. Subjects in a study started an exercise program almost immediately after being discharged from the hospital after surgery.[3] They began with balance exercises and light walking, and increased duration of walking as tolerated. Even though the exercises were very low-intense, the participants improved their fatigue scores, physical functioning, mental functioning, and quality of life from post-surgery to the end of the 6-week program.

Cancer treatments can have a variety of side effects that last long after treatment is over. Even small increases in activity may help improve the lives of cancer survivors, but a thorough and well-designed exercise protocol could greatly improve their recovery and accelerate a return to everyday activities.