Exercise during chemo for breast or colon cancer has lasting benefits

Reuters Health Information: Exercise during chemo for breast or colon cancer has lasting benefits

Exercise during chemo for breast or colon cancer has lasting benefits

Last Updated: 2018-02-20

By Megan Brooks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Exercising during treatment for breast or colon cancer can have a positive effect on health and quality of life years later, new research shows.

"It is well known that exercise during chemotherapy can lessen treatment-related side effects, such as fatigue, pain, and nausea. Our study is the first to show that people who are physically active during treatment maintain higher levels of physical activity in the long run, and this is really important for their health and well-being," lead investigator Dr. Anne M. May, from University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, said in a statement.

She presented the study during a press briefing February 12 at the 2018 Cancer Survivorship Symposium in Orlando, Florida, co-sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American College of Physicians (ACP).

The Dutch PACT study investigated the effects of an exercise intervention versus usual care in 204 breast cancer patients and 33 colon cancer patients undergoing adjuvant treatment including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The 18-week exercise intervention involved an hour of moderate- to high-intensity aerobic and strength training twice a week, led by a physical therapist, plus 30 minutes of unsupervised physical activity three days a week.

At 18 weeks, those who exercised during their cancer treatment reported less fatigue than those who did not, the researchers previously reported. (http://bit.ly/2EEvFQR)

Four years later, Dr. May and her team surveyed 128 of the study participants (110 with breast cancer and 18 with colon cancer). Seventy had participated in the exercise program and 58 had received usual care.

Patients who had participated in the 18-week exercise program during adjuvant treatment reported engaging in physical activity 142 minutes more per week or about 20 minutes more per day, on average, than those who did not. There was also a trend of lower fatigue in the exercise group than in the usual care group, but the difference was not statistically significant, Dr. May reported.

"The exercise program was designed to keep patients physically active long-term, so we're really pleased to see that even four years later people who received the intervention were still more active," she said in the statement.

"This is also important because we know from several observational studies that being physically active after a diagnosis of breast or colon cancer is associated with better prognosis," Dr. May told the briefing. "We think offering exercise during cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, is recommended and has short- and long-term beneficial effects on health."

Commenting on the study, ASCO expert and briefing moderator Dr. Timothy Gilligan noted that "nutritional recommendations seem to change every year, but if you look at the exercise literature, it's interesting how consistent the data is in showing benefit, and what's encouraging here, is the beneficial long-term impact, if we could only get people to do it."

"As physicians, we need to do more to help motivate our patients to exercise both during and after treatment," Dr. Gilligan added in a conference statement.

The study was supported by grants from the Dutch Cancer Society, the Dutch Pink Ribbon Foundation, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research. The authors have disclosed no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2ClUX3Z

Cancer Survivorship Symposium 2018.

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