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Stanford Medicine

Cancer, Health and Fitness, Research

Examining exercise and cancer survivorship

Past studies have shown that cancer patients who exercised during and after treatment were healthier and more likely to enjoy a longer life than if they were sedentary. A month ago, the American Cancer Society released new healthy living guidelines for cancer survivors that emphasized the importance of regularly exercising.

But researchers are continuing to examine the relationship between exercise and cancer survivorship in an effort to better understand how physical activity benefits subpopulations of cancer patients and to develop targeted fitness programs. Findings from four studies slated to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2012 annual meeting in Chicago from June 1-5 could offer insights into how to tailor exercise regimens to patients’ needs.

In one of the studies, researchers examined how participating in a gentle yoga program could ease menopause-like symptoms among survivors of breast cancer. Futurity reports:

Luke J. Peppone, [PhD,] a research assistant professor [at University of Rochester Medical Center], investigated the effects of a yoga program on women with breast cancer who were taking aromatase inhibitors—medications that deplete estrogen and often cause severe menopause-like symptoms. A frequent complaint is joint pain and muscle aches, sometimes making it difficult for women to get out of bed or grip a fork and knife.

Peppone says a high percentage of breast cancer survivors discontinue aromatase inhibitor therapy because of side effects, putting them at greater risk for cancer recurrence. His study measured the self-reported quality of life and physical discomfort among 95 women taking aromatase inhibitors and 72 women who were not taking the drug.

Each group took part in a four-week gentle yoga program. The women taking aromatase inhibitors reported a significant reduction in pain, muscle aches, and total physical discomfort, Peppone says. The study will serve as a pilot to launch a larger study of exercise to relieve musculoskeletal pain.

At Stanford, researchers also are engaged in efforts to measure how regular physical activity can help reduce therapy side effects, improve energy levels and promote longevity among cancer patients. Last year, research fellow Matthew Buman, PhD, presented the findings showing that a Stanford-developed program, known as “Living Strong Living Well,” significantly improves cancer survivors’ physical and emotional state in both the short- and long-term.

Previously: CDC report shows exercise becoming a popular prescription among doctors, Study shows benefits of exercise for patients with chronic health conditions, New study advocates exercise to improve prostate cancer outcomes and Gentle yoga provides benefits for cancer patients
Photo by Bettina Neuefeind

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