Exercise should be 'standard part of cancer care'


Professor Robert Thomas: "You can reduce the chances of cancer coming back if you continue to exercise"

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All patients getting cancer treatment should be told to do two and a half hours of physical exercise every week, says a report by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Being advised to rest and take it easy after treatment is an outdated view, the charity says.

Research shows that exercise can reduce the risk of dying from cancer and minimise the side effects of treatment.

The Department of Health says local initiatives can get people moving.

Macmillan's report, Move More, says that of the two million cancer survivors in the UK, around 1.6 million are not physically active enough.

Adult cancer patients and cancer survivors should undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, the reports says, which is what the Department of Health guidelines recommend.

In the report, the American College of Sports Medicine also recommends that exercise is safe during and after most types of cancer treatment and says survivors should avoid inactivity.

Start Quote

It doesn't need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim, all count”

End Quote Ciaran Devane Macmillan Cancer Support

Getting active, the report says, can help people overcome the effects of cancer and its treatments, such as fatigue and weight gain.

"The evidence review shows that physical exercise does not increase fatigue during treatment, and can in fact boost energy after treatment."

"It can also lower their chances of getting heart disease and osteoporosis.

"Also, doing recommended levels of physical activity may reduce the chance of dying from the disease. It may also help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back."

Previous research shows that exercising to the recommended levels can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring by 40%. For prostate cancer the risk of dying from the disease is reduced by up to 30%.

Bowel cancer patients' risk of dying from the disease can be cut by around 50% by doing around six hours of moderate physical activity a week.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said physical activity was very important to the survival and recovery process.

Woman jogging Keeping active after treatment for cancer is now recommended by cancer experts

"Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the gruelling ordeal of treatment all over again.

"It doesn't need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim, all count."

Traditionally cancer patients were told to rest after their cancer treatment, but the report says this approach could put cancer patients at risk.

Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and a leading clinical oncologist said: "The advice that I would have previously given to one of my patients would have been to 'take it easy'.

"This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines."

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, was a little more cautious.

"Anything that improves wellbeing and reduces treatment side effects for cancer survivors has to be a good thing.

"But the evidence that exercise has a bearing on survival is not conclusive. It is important to remember that no two cancer patients are the same, so rehabilitation programmes that include physical activity will need to be tailored to the individual."

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said it was vital that people with cancer are given the support to lead an active life.

"Physical activity and a healthy lifestyle can impact very positively on cancer outcomes and, as part of the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative, we are working with Macmillan to integrate physical activity services into cancer care pilot sites.

"Locally led initiatives such as Let's Get Moving are also well placed to signpost cancer patients to community-based physical activity opportunities."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Cannabinoids run the immune systems and mental health systems of the body not to mention hunger and apitite. Cancer treatment wipes out all these systems as it effects fast growing cells. So by bolstering your Endocannabinoid system network either through exersise or cannabinoid replacement you will get better quicker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Both sativex and marinol are organic versions that we are not allowed to use even MS patients cant get it. Radiotherapy is terminal when not used correctly duh.
    anyways back on topic.
    As many of the patients here have said getting back into exersise is a problem. I would seroisly advise anyone to ask about these drugs for the mid term. cont...

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    When you see film of recovering servicemen & the effort they put into recovery from massive injury, you can see whats possible.

    Often, people make the excuse they are too ill to exert themselves, for many, this is rubbish & laziness.

    Treatments should come with an obligation to complete a recovery activity course, which should be agreed before treatment, otherwise the treatment is wasted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    #21 Ahhh. Personal abuse. The mark of someone who doesn't have an argument. You think its 'rubbish' that cannibis smoke is carcinogenic? How many peer reviewed studies do you want? There are cannabis derivative medications available but you were the one you said "we're just not allowed to use the organinc versions."

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    This sounds very good in theory. A friend was diagnosed in March and physio was recommended during her treatment. She had the first session a week ago! It was treated with no importance at all by her doctor. She now has Priority status. If not there would have been a further very long wait. So a very good idea, but the professionals need to be together in providing it.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Just starting 4th week of chemo and radiotherapy. Finally managed to tackle the knee-high grass in the garden yesterday. Felt better, nicely tired in the evening, more positive and determined. I understand the effort involved but exercise and moving - even small amounts - really does help with mood and attitude. There should be more advice and support, organisation of yoga, stretching classes etc.

  • Comment number 19.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    #16. You love posting this nonsense that Cannabis is a cancer cure. Some cannaboids ARE beneficial. When you smoke dope you also smoke about 400 carcinogens, some of which are responsible for an epidemic of oral cancers in young users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    #12 This advice is from Macmillan who frankly are probably THE BEST source of support & advice for a cancer patient. Whether you are slim, non-smoking etc etc the advice is for people who already have a cancer diagnosis. Its not some judgemental nonsense. Nor is it exactly rocket science that staying fit increases your chance of survival.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    cancerpatient they have just discovered what a runners high actualy is. Thats all they used to think it was endorphins but recent developments have show that this is a pre cusor to the release of Cannabinoids identical to those in the cannabis plant, seems we alreay have the cure built in to us were just not allowed to use the organinc versions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I am currently under going treatment for cancer on four harsh cycles of chemo, in between each cycle I have a short break where I get to go home for a rest and have been making sure I stay active, like a brisk etc etc. I do find it helps and doesn't add to my fatigue. Glad to hear this report today! Anything to help with my recovery is essential and always welcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Give us a break!

    What is going on Cancer Patients go through enough as it is.

    I certainly didn't get cancer through a unhealthy life - nhs result of neglect.

    Now you get them saying we have to exercise after treatment - well lets try that when you are in a special care unit and tied to tubes and machines for over 10 days - how silly is that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Exuse me but arn't these happy chemicals cannabinoids mainly AEA more commonly known as THC in the plant world. Should cancer patients be given marinol ?? Interesting stuff as AEA is one of our natural cell regualtors the same way THC does. Sativex all round for these folks untill they are well enough to exersise!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I can only assume that anyone who comes out with this type of advice has never gone through the physical and emotional roller coaster that is cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is patronising and assumes all cancer patients have somehow contributed to their illness and ignores all the slim; exercising; non-smoking; sensible eating and drinking folk who have had a cancer diagnosis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    As a Movement Specialist this is v encouraging.We need to stretch the way we traditionally think about exercise. Confusion can arise from what is defined as moderate - aim for a step count, measured on an accurate pedometer of at least 115, for more cardiovascular benefits build up to range between 124 - 155. Anything more than this postural alignment can be compromised which impacts results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Those that give advice should ensure that we cancer patients have facilities available. Cancer treatment drugs made me very weak - but I tried to follow advice and exercise. I had 6 week course at local hospital - and that's that. Consultant said I needed supervision, and hospital said if I wanted more I would have to pay £60 an hour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It will take more than exercise and more than diet to avoid cancer in the first place or a recurrence of the same. That is the truth of it. Remember Naratilova's comment 'I couldn't believe I had cancer?' This type of advice is over optimistic and overweening. Please shut up... We cancer sufferers don't need this kind of stuff on top of everything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I have to agree with those who say that cancer patients need a break. There's no way I could've exercised during chemo because of nausea and pain. I have over one year of hormonal treatment to go and I try to exercise, because of weight gain, but I pay a heavy price for it - illness, exhaustion and pain are all consequences of moderate exercise. Any advice needs to be tailored to individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    This is just commen sense.


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