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Exercise and Survival for Women with Breast Cancer

Women with Breast Cancer (2)

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among women. With widespread screening, improved diagnostic methods, and advanced treatment, the survival rates have improved. However, it still remains a big fight for patients and their families.

The high-risk breast has an increased risk of recurrence after the treatment. Therefore, it is very important to follow the post-treatment protocol strictly and make the required lifestyle changes. As with most cancers, timely diagnosis is also an important factor for successful treatment.

The team of oncologists design a personalized treatment plan for each based on the diagnostic results, stage, location, type, and size of the tumour. The main treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.

Women with Breast Cancer (2)

The cost of breast cancer treatment in India, though significantly lower than many other countries, depends on the type of treatment, and choice of hospital. A combination of treatment, such as surgery and chemotherapy or radiation therapy, might be recommended in certain cases.

After the treatment, the breast cancer survivors are recommended guidelines for post-treatment care. Exercise has been known to play a role in survival as well as life quality for women with breast cancer or those who have been treated for breast cancer.

According to a study published in Cancer Nurs., exercise has been linked with a decrease in the risk of recurrence and improved survival as well as the quality of life for breast cancer patients. However, it was estimated that only 17% – 37% breast cancer survivors stick to the exercise guidelines of the American Cancer Society. An important step towards increasing exercise among survivors is to make them aware of how exercise will be beneficial for them.

Another new study has also added to the existing evidence that associates physical activity with survival and better quality life in women diagnosed with high-risk breast cancer.

The study indicated that women who were involved in regular physical activity before cancer diagnosis and after treatment, were found to be less likely to have recurrence – cancer come back or less mortality risk compared with those who were inactive.

Women with Breast Cancer

The study was based on data collected on the physical activity levels of women having high-risk breast cancer (which is more likely to recur or spread) at different time points, such as before their diagnosis, during treatment (chemotherapy), and after the treatment. The results from the study reveal that physical activity at any point in time has beneficial effects for breast cancer survivors.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has set certain guidelines for exercise among breast cancer survivors. It recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity exercise regime or to have 75 minutes/week of aerobic exercise with strenuous-intensity along with strength training exercises twice in a week. Although, a low percentage of breast cancer survivors in the United States (US) have been reported to comply with these activity guidelines.

Among women who engaged in exercise routine before the diagnosis, their levels of activity decreased during treatment, and they failed to return to the pre-diagnosis levels after completion of treatment. However, the breast cancer survivors as generally motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a good diet. Also, the survival has improved in women who consistently met the Physical Activity Guidelines set by the American Cancer Society over time, in comparison to those who did not meet the guidelines. The doctors suggest that even for women who were active but didn’t quite meet the guidelines, there is a survival advantage.

It was seen that breast cancer patients who fulfilled the minimum physical activity requirements as per the guidelines before diagnosis as well as at the 2-year follow-up after treatment showed a 55% reduced likelihood of cancer come back and a 68% decreased risk of death from breast cancer or other cause, in contrast to those who did not meet the guidelines at both these timelines.

Exercise has been shown to reduce many long-term and late side effects caused by breast cancer treatment – chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy. This might cause exercise to be even more beneficial to survivors after treatment than before the diagnosis.

Cardio-pulmonary benefits from certain exercises are considered significant for survivors who had chemotherapy and are at risk for cardio-pulmonary problems and reduced aerobic capacity. Also, women who had radiation therapy might be at risk for bone loss (osteoporosis) and muscular atrophy, both these conditions may improve with regular exercise.

Exercise also improves the overall quality of life for breast cancer survivors by lowering the side effects of treatment such as fatigue, pain, low self-esteem, depression, disrupted sleep, concentrating problem, and weight gain.

As the exercise is linked with reduction in recurrence risk, exercise may improve life quality by providing survivors a sense of control. It is estimated that 34% of breast cancer survivors who fear cancer come back to the degree that it affects their quality of life.

In conclusion, it can be noted that exercise reduces the long-term treatment effects and is a 20-50% reduction in the risk of recurrence.

Breast cancer survivors can particularly benefit from exercises.

My name is an adjective and living by it is my nature. Currently I'm a teacher and an intermittent writer.  Being aware about current events is my hobby.  Dislike the fast paced world and find solace in peace. Interested in drawing harmony in Indian mythology and cosmos (though human life is too short for that). Like to travel spontaneously. Developing a tongue of connoisseur (You can bribe me by offering sushi !). Strong believer of my sixth sense. Family is both my strength and weakness.

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