Breast cancer is a prevalent disease affecting millions of women worldwide. While treatment options continue to advance, there are additional strategies that can enhance both physical and mental well-being during this challenging journey. Exercise has emerged as a promising adjunct therapy for breast cancer patients, offering various benefits that can alleviate treatment side effects, improve quality of life, and potentially reduce the risk of recurrence. In this article, we will delve into the impact of exercise on breast cancer, exploring how it keeps patients strong throughout treatment and its potential role in reducing the risk of recurrence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers breast cancer as a significant public health concern. As defined by the CDC, breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. They emphasize the importance of early detection through regular screening, such as mammograms, as well as promoting awareness about risk factors, symptoms, and available treatment options. The CDC plays a vital role in providing resources, guidelines, and support to healthcare providers and the general public in efforts to prevent, detect, and effectively manage breast cancer. You can learn more here.
One of the significant advantages of exercise for breast cancer patients is its ability to alleviate treatment side effects and improve overall well-being. Research has shown that physical activity can help manage common side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and reduced muscle strength. A large clinical trial found that breast cancer patients who engaged in regular exercise experienced a significant reduction in fatigue levels compared to those who did not exercise.(1) Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormones, which can contribute to improved mood and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety. Additionally, by engaging in physical activity, breast cancer patients can maintain or improve their muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, promoting better overall physical function and quality of life.(2)
Exercise plays a crucial role in keeping breast cancer patients strong throughout their treatment journey. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of exercise on physical strength and functional capacity during treatment. For instance, a randomized controlled trial by Courneya et al. (2012) examined the effects of supervised exercise in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.(3) The findings revealed that the exercise group experienced improved muscular strength and endurance, as well as enhanced physical functioning compared to the control group. Similarly, a meta-analysis conducted by Hayes et al. (2019) demonstrated that exercise interventions during breast cancer treatment significantly improved muscle strength, aerobic fitness, and overall physical performance.(4)
Moreover, exercise has shown promising potential in reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Numerous studies have suggested that regular physical activity may play a protective role against cancer recurrence. A large prospective cohort study by Holmes et al. (2005) involving over 2,000 breast cancer survivors found that women who engaged in higher levels of moderate-intensity exercise had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence compared to those who were less physically active.(5) Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis conducted by Ibrahim and Al-Homaidh (2010)(6) supported these findings, indicating that increased physical activity after breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of recurrence and mortality.
Types of Beneficial Exercises
Regular exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for breast cancer patients and can help reduce the risk of recurrence. Here is an example of five types of exercise that can be beneficial:
1. Aerobic Exercises
Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing can help improve cardiovascular health, boost energy levels, and reduce the risk of recurrence.
2. Strength Training
Weightlifting or resistance exercises can help build and maintain muscle mass, improve bone density, and enhance overall strength and function. It is important to start with light weights and gradually increase the intensity under the guidance of a qualified professional.
3. Yoga and Stretching
These activities can help improve flexibility, balance, and range of motion, which may be affected by certain breast cancer treatments. They also promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
Pilates exercises can help strengthen the core muscles, improve posture, and enhance body awareness. They can also aid in rehabilitation after breast cancer surgery.
5. Tai Chi
This gentle, low-impact exercise combines slow, flowing movements with deep breathing and relaxation techniques. It can help improve balance, flexibility, and overall physical and mental well-being.
Please note that before starting any exercise program, it is important to consult with your healthcare team or a qualified exercise professional to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual needs and medical condition. They can provide guidance on the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise that is suitable for you.
The SunnyFit® app is designed to assist individuals in meeting their fitness and wellness goals. While it may not directly address breast cancer specifically, it can still be beneficial for overall health and well-being during and after treatment. Here are a few ways the app can help:
The app offers various workout routines, including cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve strength, endurance, and overall fitness levels.
Tracking and Monitoring
The app allows users to track their workouts and other fitness metrics. This can help individuals stay motivated and monitor their progress over time.
The app has a community feature that allows users to connect with others on a similar fitness journey, providing a sense of support and encouragement.
It's important to note that while the app can provide general fitness and wellness guidance, it is always recommended to consult with healthcare professionals, such as oncologists or physical therapists, for personalized advice and guidance specific to breast cancer treatment and recovery.
Exercise not only helps breast cancer patients maintain their strength and physical functioning during treatment but also holds the potential for reducing the risk of recurrence. Incorporating regular exercise into the treatment plan can provide numerous benefits and improve the overall well-being of breast cancer patients.
1. S0221 Adjuvant Doxorubicin, Cyclophosphamide, and Paclitaxel in Treating Patients With Breast Cancer - Full Text View - ClinicalTrials.gov. (n.d.). Clinicaltrials.gov. Retrieved September 13, 2023, from https://classic.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00070564. Accessed 26 September 2023
2. Ganz, P. A. (2002). Quality of Life in Long-Term, Disease-Free Survivors of Breast Cancer: a Follow-up Study. Cancer Spectrum Knowledge Environment, 94(1), 39–49. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/94.1.39. Accessed 26 September 2023
3. Courneya, K. S., Segal, R. J., Mackey, J. R., Gelmon, K., Reid, R. D., Friedenreich, C. M., Ladha, A. B., Proulx, C., Vallance, J. K. H., Lane, K., Yasui, Y., & McKenzie, D. C. (2007). Effects of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Adjuvant Chemotherapy: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 25(28), 4396–4404. https://doi.org/10.1200/jco.2006.08.2024. Accessed 26 September 2023
4. Hayes, S. C., Newton, R. U., Spence, R. R., & Galvão, D. A. (2019). The Exercise and Sports Science Australia position statement: Exercise medicine in cancer management. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(11), 1175–1199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2019.05.003. Accessed 26 September 2023
5. Holmes, M. D. (2005). Physical Activity and Survival After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. JAMA, 293(20), 2479. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.293.20.2479. Accessed 26 September 2023
6. Ibrahim, E. M., & Al-Homaidh, A. (2010). Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis: meta-analysis of published studies. Medical Oncology, 28(3), 753–765. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12032-010-9536-x. Accessed 26 September 2023