Research developments in surgery, drug therapy and radiotherapy have greatly improved breast cancer survival rates, however it is important that researchers and the broader community look for ways to improve overall quality of life for cancer survivors, in addition to treatment.
Some common physical side effects of chemotherapy treatment include fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, headaches, muscle and nerve pain, bone density loss, weight gain or loss, as
well as emotional side effects. These side effects all take their toll on the quality of daily life post-treatment.
Exercise has generally been found to be beneficial for preventing some side effects of treatment, however exercise isn’t routinely prescribed as part of standard treatment for breast cancer patients.
QIMR Berghofer collaborated with researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to evaluate a tailored, eight-month exercise program starting six weeks after cancer surgery, and
involving up to 16 sessions with an exercise physiologist. The goal was to confirm whether an exercise program helps with recovery, and to discover the most economical and effective way of implementing exercise as part of standard cancer care within the healthcare system.
The study found more than three times as many women who followed the exercise program experienced improvement in their quality of life, compared to the women who didn’t exercise. This included a reduction in side effects such as fatigue, bone density loss and emotional distress.
Continuing to conduct collaborative research studies such as this can help influence the national standard in cancer care and better support the growing number of cancer survivors in Australia.
Research featured conducted by: Louisa Gordon, Health Economics Laboratory
“With extra funding, we would have the capacity to undertake research which can build a convincing argument for additional government funding of programs and services around weight loss and healthy lifestyle interventions that we know substantially help cancer survivors.” — Louisa Gordon, Health Economics Laboratory
Infographic statistics: Schmitz K, Speck R, Rye S, DiSipio T, Hayes SC. Prevalence of breast cancer treatment sequelae over six years of follow‐up: the Pulling Through Study. Cancer. 2012;118(8):S2217–S2225