Exercise as a regular part of a comprehensive care plan for patients with breast and prostate cancer not only improves their emotional outlook and quality of life, but also helps combat the profound fatigue and weakness they experience during cancer treatment, finds a new study.

People undergoing cancertreatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy often complain of various negative effects such as loss of physical function, weariness, nausea, depression and anxiety.

According to experts, exercise enhances fitness and muscular strength and uplifts mood and self esteem, besides reducing the dependency on extra supplements to counter the side effects.

Lead author of the study, Eleanor M. Walker, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan stated, “Using exercise as an approach to cancer care has the potential to benefit patients both physically and psychologically, as well as mitigate treatment side effects.

“Plus, exercise is a great alternative to patients combating fatigue and nausea who are considering using supplements which may interfere with medications and chemotherapy they’re taking during cancer treatment.”

The unique program ExCITE
In order to evaluate the impact of exercise on cancer patients, the researchers developed a unique program called ExCITE (Exercise and Cancer Integrative Therapies and Education).

As a part of the program, experts worked with the patients receiving cancer treatments by designing individualized exercise ventures.

A group of about 20 prostate cancer patients and 30 breast cancer patients aged between 35 to 80 years were selected. Some of the patients opted for exercising at home, while others chose to go to Henry Ford’s fitness centers.

At the start of the study, the endurance and exercise capacity, muscle strength, bone density, metabolic and blood samples were obtained of all the participants.

The same information was once again taken at the end of the study.

The diet and physical regimes were coordinated on the basis of stamina, exercise tolerances, weight, health and type of cancer treatment.

Acupuncture was advised for patients who experienced hot flashes, pain, nausea/vomiting, insomnia and neuropathy due to the cancer treatment.

The study tracked the patients’ exercise routine during treatment and for 1-year following completion of cancer treatment.

Observations by the researchers
The investigators noted that weariness, memory loss and nausea the common side effects linked to cancer treatments decreased significantly by regular exercises, while some reported experiencing no adverse effects.

Cheryl Fallen of Gross Pointe Park, Michigan, who took part in the ExCITE program stated, “Overall, the program makes you feel better about yourself. It’s a positive support for cancer patients, and I really think it’s allowed me to be more productive during my treatment.”

The design and intervention methods of the study will be presented on June 7 at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

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