What is Breast Cancer?
In Australia, breast cancer is the most common cancer seen in women. Men can also be at risk, though it is much more uncommon. It is characterised by the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of the cells lining the breasts. This growth abnormality may be due to age and genetics, as well as lifestyle risk factors such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and being overweight.
Treatment often involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and sometimes a combination of all.
How can exercise help?
Recent evidence has found exercise to be an ideal intervention in managing the side effects and improving outcomes of breast cancer treatment.
Benefits of Exercise During Treatment
Increased muscle strength
Improved cardiorespiratory fitness
Lowered risk of lymphoedema
Improved physical functioning and ability to perform everyday activities
Improved body image and self-esteem
Maintenance of bone health
Improved sleep quality
Improved quality of life
Generally speaking, any amount of exercise is better than none, and more is better than less. With that said it is important to gradually pace up your exercise intensity, depending on how active you were prior to treatment.
What exercise should I be doing?
A combination of aerobic and resistance training can help to attain the cardiovascular, muscular and bone health benefits during and after treatment.
If you are currently undergoing treatment, we recommend seeking guidance from an Exercise Physiologist before beginning an exercise program. When you are exercising it is important to gradually build up your duration and intensity, as well as listen to your body and take rest breaks when needed.
Exercise considerations with breast cancer
There are a number of considerations, though each are dependent on the type of treatment you are currently going through or have had in the past. Some Breast Cancer treatments such as hormone therapies can lower bone mineral density. Resistance and weight-bearing exercises are effective in improving your bone density and reducing the risk of fracture.
If you’ve had surgery you may experience reduced strength and some restriction in your arm and shoulder mobility. This should be taken into consideration when performing upper body exercises.
There is a risk of lymphedema from breast cancer. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of lymphoedema, however if you notice any changes in your hand, arm, trunk, breast or chest including swelling, seek expert advice immediately.
It is important to consult with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who is experienced with working with Breast Cancer patients, when beginning as they are able to assist you in tailoring an exercise program based on your individual needs.
For more information on how we can help, contact us on 8969 6300 or firstname.lastname@example.org