The findings of a study have revealed that exercise may make radiotherapy more tolerable for breast cancer patients. Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent types of disease and affects one in eight Australian women. Radiotherapy has emerged as an important component of breast cancer treatment but can lead to cancer-related fatigue and negatively impact patients’ health-related quality of life.
The study conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU) included 89 women, with 43 completing a home-based 12-week program consisting of a weekly exercise regime of one to two resistance training sessions and an accumulated 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise. The remaining patients were a control group who did not participate in the exercise program. Researchers found patients who exercised recovered from cancer-related fatigue quicker during and after radiotherapy than the control group and saw a significant increase in health-related quality of life post-radiotherapy.
Study supervisor Professor Rob Newton said this showed home-based resistance and aerobic exercise during radiotherapy is safe, feasible and effective in accelerating recovery from cancer-related fatigue and improving health-related quality of life. He said, “A home-based protocol might be preferable for patients, as it is low-cost, does not require travel or in-person supervision and can be performed at a time and location of the patient’s choosing. These benefits may provide substantial comfort to patients.”
Study lead Dr. Georgios Mavropalias said benefits were also observed with less exercise. “The amount of exercise was aimed to increase progressively, with the ultimate target of participants meeting the national guideline for recommended exercise levels. However, the exercise programs were relative to the participants’ fitness capacity, and we found even much smaller dosages of exercise than those recommended in the national guidelines can have significant effects on cancer-related fatigue and health-related quality of living during and after radiotherapy.”
The researchers also found that once participants began an exercise program, most stuck with it. The exercise group reported significant improvements in mild, moderate, and vigorous physical activity up to 12 months after the supervised exercise program finished.