The benefits of exercise after breast cancer treatment

July 10th, 2012

Dr Sandra Hayes from the Queensland University of Technology, an NBCF Early Career Fellow, was invited to speak at the Brisbane National Research Roadshow, held on 1 May 2012, on the concerns facing breast cancer survivors and the benefits of exercise after breast cancer treatment.

Dr_Sandra_Hayes_300_300Many women experience significant side effects following a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment. Dr Hayes reported that more than 50% of breast cancer patients had multiple symptoms, including pain, fatigue and upper-body morbidity of moderate intensity for six months after their diagnosis. These symptoms also continued many years following their treatment and often increased the likelihood of developing other issues and worsening already existing symptoms.

There is growing evidence supporting the importance of exercise in the prevention of treatment-related side effects and to optimise fitness, function and potentially increase survival following a breast cancer diagnosis. While it is clear that exercise plays an important role, Dr Hayes said, “We need to learn how best to help women become and stay active after breast cancer diagnosis.”

Presenting findings from a study that used exercise as a therapy in breast cancer care, Dr Hayes demonstrated that exercise could potentially be integrated into breast cancer care as early as five weeks after diagnosis and that woman can safely exercise during periods of follow-up therapy.

Dr Hayes also demonstrated that the prescription of exercise to women with breast cancer could lead to improvements in psychosocial and physical well-being, reduced impact of disease symptoms, treatment-related side effects and the overall quality of life for women with breast cancer.

Acknowledging the need for more research before exercise can be considered as a therapy following breast cancer surgery, Dr Hayes said, “The tide has turned, with the importance of staying or becoming physically active after breast cancer diagnosis being acknowledged by women with breast cancer and their treatment teams.”

“Australian breast cancer survivorship research is leading to findings of international relevance, as well as findings that will optimise the care of breast cancer, as well as other cancers.”

Carole Renouf, NBCF CEO, said, “NBCF is the leading breast cancer research funding body in Australia. Our aspirational goal of zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030 will only come from understanding more about this disease. Dr Hayes’s work is one piece of the puzzle in the fight against breast cancer.”