FIGHTING CANCER RELATED FATIGUE WITH EXERCISE
No longer is a cancer diagnosis a time to stop all physical activity and take it easy. Quite the opposite. Current research is recommending that patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation remain as active as possible. The benefits of exercise within the general population are well-known. Historically, it has not consistently been recommended for patients undergoing treatment for cancer, despite the known benefits. Exercise has known benefits such as lowering blood pressure, increasing or maintaining endurance, reducing arthritis related joint pain, and strengthening the body. Additionally exercise can improve sleep quality and result in an improved appetite. Exercise also known to reduce feelings of depression, weakness, fatigue and nausea. Research now demonstrates that it is possible and even recommended that cancer patients exercise even while undergoing cancer treatment.
Studies have reported that those who engaged in sports or were physically active prior to a cancer diagnosis generally fared better and returned to their daily life sooner than their sedentary counterparts. Not only that, the physically active are less likely to have a cancer recurrence and suffer fewer cancer treatment side effects.
Cancer-related fatigue is often a reason many cancer patients cut back on exercising. It can become so severe that patients become entirely sedentary. Although the exact reason for the fatigue is not entirely known, it is largely believed to be related to the medications and/or radiation used to kill the cancer cells. It can come on quickly and is described as the type of fatigue that is not relieved by rest.
Physical Therapy and Cancer Rehab
Doctors are now beginning to see the dramatic benefits of exercise for cancer patients and are encouraging their patients to remain active in order to offset any fatigue, unexpected weight loss or deconditioning that may result from cancer treatments. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can evaluate you for any current or potential problems. Cancer rehabilitation services are available and many oncologists are now seeing the benefits. If surgery is planned, a pre-hab program can be developed to help you maintain/improve your strength and flexibility prior to surgery, thus improving post-surgical outcomes. The emphasis is on regular exercise — that means exercising daily or at least every other day, even if just a small amount. Staying as active as possible is the key.
With the potential of medical complications related to the side effects of cancer treatments, it is highly recommended that patients seek out an exercise professional for guidance and proper prescription of exercise.
That is where cancer rehab comes in. Cancer rehab ( also called oncology rehab) physical therapists are highly trained and educated in the unique needs of cancer patients. They are well versed in potential complications of treatment or surgery, they know specific precautions to take and can assist in developing an exercise program that is appropriate for you.