Exercise & Cancer Research

Exercise after breast cancer surgery:

One of the major concerns for those who have had breast cancer surgery is the potential for lymphedema and how that will affect their ability to exercise. Researchers studying the effects of supervised upper and lower body weight training on the incidence and symptoms of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors found that 6 months of weight training twice a week did not increase or exacerbate symptoms of lymphedema.

Source – Ahmed, RL, Thomas W, Yee D, Schmitz KH.  Randomized controlled trial of weight training and lymphedema in breast cancer survivors.  Journal Clinical Oncology. June 20, 2006; 24(18):2765-2772.


Exercise helps men with prostate cancer undergoing Androgen suppression therapy:

Men undergoing androgen suppression therapy (AST) for prostate cancer often experience side-effects such as decrease muscle mass and strength, fatigue, a decrease in physical function and an overall decrease in quality of life.  Researchers are looking to exercise as a possible treatment to help reverse some of these side-effects for men undergoing AST. 


A recent study out of Australia with men undergoing AST for prostate cancer showed that men who participated in a 12-week exercise program that included both aerobic and strength training increased lean muscle mass, increased strength and increased cardiorespiratory function.  Those who participated in the exercise program also reduced fatigue, decreased levels of C-reactive protein and improved overall quality of life.

Source - Galvão DA, Taaffe DR, Spry N, Joseph D, Newton RU.  Combined resistance and aerobic exercise program reverses muscle loss in men undergoing androgen suppression therapy for prostate cancer without bone metastases: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2010 Jan 10; 28(2):340-7. Epub 2009 Nov 30.


Exercise Can Be Part of Rehabiltation from all Types and Stages of Cancer

While most of the research has been done in women with early breast cancer and men with prostate cancer, a study recruiting individuals regardless of the type or stage of cancer showed significant improvements over time in exercise tolerance, activity and sleep patterns, and quality of life.  Study participants were overwhelmingly positive about being in the study. The availability of a structured, supervised program enhanced their return to normal routines.

Source - Young-McCaughan, S, Mays, MZ, Arzola, SM, Yoder, LH, Dramiga, SA, Leclerc, KM, Caton Jr., JR, Sheffler, RL, & Nowlin MU. Change in exercise tolerance, activity and sleep patterns, and quality of life in patients with cancer participating in a structured exercise program. Oncology Nursing Forum, 2003 30(3), 441-454.