Exercise and breast cancer
The benefits of exercise are well known, helping to prevent illness and improving our physical strength and fitness, as well as how we feel mentally. But research also shows exercise can benefit you if you’re going through cancer treatment, particularly breast cancer.
At GenesisCare, our exercise medicine programmes have been shown to improve our patients’ physical and mental wellbeing. This tailored programme of physical activity helps patients seize back a feeling of control and gives them something positive to focus on. Not only do they experience positive mental benefits, but we also see physical benefits and improved tolerance to cancer treatment.
To find out the real impact of this programme, we asked a group of our patients a series of questions before and after the programme about their quality of life and wellbeing, and measured physical results such as strength and level of fatigue.
Of the patients surveyed, we found that six in ten1 (60%) patients with breast cancer highlighted a positive health change after participating in exercise medicine during their treatment. Specifically, 59% noted a reduction in depression, while 75% showed improvements in muscle strength over a twelve-week period.
The American College of Sports Medicine study further supports the benefits of exercise medicine, which showed a 40% reduction in mortality amongst cancer survivors following exercise intervention.2
As part of the world-class cancer care we provide, we offer exercise medicine either virtually or at our on-site exercise clinics to our patients receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.
Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be a distressing and unnerving time. It's therefore important that everyone is aware of how they can best support themselves should they ever face this situation
- Professor Amit Bahl, Clinical Oncologist at GenesisCare
Louise's experience of exercise medicine at GenesisCare
"When I first heard that I'd need chemotherapy, I thought I wouldn't be able to get out of bed – so exercising whilst undergoing treatment isn't something I ever thought would be possible; however, I couldn't have been more wrong.
I can't emphasise enough the enormous benefit of having exercise medicine as part of my treatment plan. Even on days when I wasn't feeling great, I always felt better after doing some of my prescribed exercise. It's incredible that I was able to come through cancer treatment fitter and stronger than when I started."
Geeta's experience of Exercise medicine at GenesisCare
"I am now midway through my radiotherapy treatment and 7 weeks into a 12-week personalised exercise programme. Throughout my cancer treatment, I have perhaps found tiredness the hardest part, particularly during my chemotherapy. I still go through waves of fatigue, but I have found that I always feel better after an exercise session and am definitely feeling stronger and more motivated.
As a mum of 2, family life doesn’t stop so it's been really helpful to have my own time and do something just for myself."
It's incredible that I was able to come through cancer treatment fitter and stronger than when I started
- Louise, breast cancer patient
Hearing experiences like these make us proud of what we offer and how we can support our patients every step of the way.
Simple exercise routines can have a positive impact to a patient's mind and body, and this is something we want everyone to know.
The idea of exercising during cancer treatment can sound daunting. But our highly trained physiotherapists will work together with you to tailor your exercise medicine prescription to meet your abilities and needs while continuously working to improve the side effects of your treatment.
Tracey’s experience of exercising during breast cancer treatment
Tracey Crouch CBE, UK MP and former Minister for Sports Minister and breast cancer survivor explains "Having undergone treatment for breast cancer, I've experienced first-hand the benefits of how important it can be to stay physically active during treatment. And in my role as Sports Minister, I was a huge advocate for the well-rounded benefits of exercise in day-to-day life – I truly believe there's so much in the world that exercise can help to solve."
I truly believe there's so much in the world that exercise can help to solve
During my breast cancer treatment, I would walk to my appointments as well as making time to get out on my bike – which not only helped me manage the side effects of the treatment itself but also helped to build up my strength. I would strongly encourage anyone who receives a diagnosis to talk to their health care professional about how they can best support themselves through exercise and keeping active."
Our Specialist Oncology Physiotherapist tells us more
Joshila DeVile, Specialist Oncology Physiotherapist at GenesisCare, comments:
"Exercise medicine can help improve bone strength as well as managing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. From a longer-term perspective, it can in some cases also reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and potentially the possibility of cancer returning".
At GenesisCare, we prescribe our patients a 12-week personalised programme of aerobic and resistance training – which has been clinically proven to provide the greatest benefit to recovery compared to other forms of exercise. Each plan is centred around the expected side effects from your treatment as well as your personal goals and lifestyle.
Throughout the 12-week personalised programme and beyond, we offer support and encouragement to each of our patients, building their physical and mental strength.
1. Research conducted among111 patients (91 of which were diagnosed breast cancer patients) between August 2018 – February 2020 , conducted by GenesisCare Exercise Medicine department
2. American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable Report on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cancer Prevention and Control, 2019, showed a 40% reduction in mortality amongst breast cancer survivors following exercise intervention
3. Exercise, positioning and lymphoedema | Coping with cancer | Cancer Research UK [Internet]. Cancerresearchuk.org. 2022 [cited 23 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/lymphoedema-and-cancer/treating/exercise