Breast Cancer Patients Not Getting Recommended Exercise

Researchers reported in Cancer that two-thirds of breast cancer patients are falling short of the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise each week. Among those studied, 60 percent said their level of physical activity dropped after their diagnosis. While the benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients has been reported, breast cancer patients still fair better when compared to American adults as a whole, with80 percent failing to get the recommended amount of weekly exercise. Authors of the study note that more needs to be done to support and promote physical activity for patients following a breast cancer diagnosis.

Overall, patients who exercise after a breast cancer diagnosis will live longer, better lives. The converse is true as well, according to research. When a patient stops exercising after a diagnosis, they are more likely to have a worsened outcome and quality of life. Evidence has long supported the role of exercise in helping to prevent cancer, as well as help reduce the recurrence of cancer. While it is unknown whether breast cancer will return, most cases occur within five years of treatment. By looking at these dropping rates of exercise, health care professional are hopeful they can identify strategies to increasing weekly exercise to help prevent future cases of breast cancer.

Exercise after Breast Cancer Treatment

Most breast cancer patients will undergo surgery as part of their breast cancer treatment. Health care professionals agree, that if they are able, patients should continue their regular exercise regime leading up to surgery. Then, following a recovery period, introduce exercise slowly as soon as they can after their doctor’s approval. Some types of exercise may need to be avoided until any stitches or drains are removed – about 8 weeks post-op. If you experience extreme fatigue, dizziness or lack of muscle coordinator, stop exercising and talk with your health care provider.

The American Cancer Society recommends starting some light exercise a few days after surgery. These include shoulder and arm mobility exercises 3 to 7 days post-op:

  • Using the arm on the same side as surgery to bathe, comb your hair, get dressed and eat.
  • Raising the arm on the same side as the surgery above heart level for 45 minutes 2 or 3 times a day, while laying down.
  • Exercising the arm on the same side as your surgery when it’s raised above heart level by opening and closing your hand 15 to 20 times. Then bend and straighten your elbow. Do this 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Practice deep breathing using your diaphragm at least 6 times a day. Lie on your back and breathe in slowly. Keep slowly breathing in as much air as you can while trying to expand your diaphragm (push your navel out away from your spine). When you can’t breathe in any more air, relax and breathe out all the air. Do these 4 or 5 times. Deep breathing helps maintain normal chest movement, which makes it easier for your lungs to work.

If you have had reconstructive surgery, talk with your surgeon about when it is okay to start exercise. It will likely take more than 8 weeks to heal from reconstructive surgery. The American Cancer Society shares more on specific guidelines and exercises following treatment.