What Your Oncologist Won't Tell You

Cancer warriors are reluctant to exercise for a variety of reasons

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) You know that exercise is good for you. This is true for just about any time in your life – some form of movement does a body good. Staying active is especially important during cancer treatment – but don’t wait for your doctor to tell you so.

Oncologists and their patients don’t talk about exercise very much. In fact, not nearly enough – despite the fact that regular exercise saves lives.

"You should exercise daily."

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic documented why cancer patients are often sluggish about exercising. This investigation is part of a series of studies regarding the impact of exercise on cancer.

“As doctors, we often tell patients that exercise is important, but to this point, nobody had studied what patients know about exercise, how they feel about it and what tends to get in the way,” lead author Andrea Cheville, MD, of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, in a press release.

Studies have shown that regular exercisers have about a 50 percent reduced risk of seeing their breast or colon cancer return.

This small study, involving 20 people with lung cancer, found that those who exercised before their diagnosis were more likely to be physically active afterwards.

Researchers also learned that when oncologists discuss exercise, patients take notice.

However, none of the people in the study had discussed exercising with their doctors.

So what’s the problem – why don’t cancer patients and winners exercise? According to Dr. Cheville, most of people believe that their daily activities are enough.

“Generally, patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes," Dr. Cheville said

She added, “"Most were not aware that inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including symptoms of cancer."

"I have worked with patients who have gone through cancer treatments and recovery programs and, in every case, I saw positive changes from adding exercise into their weekly regiment,” James Crowell, owner and head trainer of Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, told dailyRx.

“Not only does it help them get stronger and healthier, it helps them feel more empowered and confident, and I believe that self confidence is a very real help to anybody's recovery plan,” said Crowell, who was not involved with this study.

The researchers are now trying to determine how best to communicate the benefits of exercise to cancer patients in a meaningful way.

This study appeared in July in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

The research was funded by a grant from the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 28, 2012
Last Updated:
August 30, 2012