Why cancer patients, survivors need to exercise

July 19, 2010 3:10:53 PM PDT
Surviving a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a tough or even grueling experience. Now, a panel of doctors with expertise in cancer and fitness is advising cancer patients and survivors to avoid inactivity.

An exercise class for cancer patients and survivors is filled with grit, strength and determination. These qualities are strong requirements not only for an exercise class, but also for these women's lives.

"Some days you can do it, some days you can't," said Carmen Melian, a breast cancer patient.

Stacy Ostow has gone through a lot in the last 30 months, including the birth of her first child, two cancer diagnoses, multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

She started exercising 4 months ago.

"I feel I'm been getting stronger, little by little but I really feel. I think it's partially a mental thing, as well. It gives you confidence; it gives you inner strength, which also helps with the outer strength and endurance," Ostow said.

Carmen Melian who was diagnosed with breast cancer just 7 months ago echoes her feelings.

"It can help you both physically and spiritually," she said.

What these women know is what the new guidelines put out by the American College of Sports Medicine this month are saying: exercise can benefit many cancer patients.

In addition, the authors of the guidelines want to encourage formalized exercise programs for patient s during and after treatment. Perhaps, like an equivalent of cardiac rehab for cancer patients.

Donna Wilson, an oncology nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for Integrative Medicine was an early supporter of exercise programs for cancer patients.

"The people who have come to me pre-surgery or during chemo and during radiation have improved in their flexibility, decreased level of fatigue from treatments decreased anxiety, decreased depression. It's just a total body change for them and that their quality of everyday living is okay," Wilson said.

Online: www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/062910/page5