Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Special Guest Post: Physical Activity for Cancer Patients

I am very honored to have my first guest post. Liz Davies has shared a post with us today on how being active can help cancer patients. Thanks Liz!

Physical Activity for Cancer Patients

In cancer treatments in the past, doctors have supported reduced physical activity, making rest an essential part of the healing process. While this is advised when movement may cause pain, result in shortness of breath, or produce a rapid heart rate, the latest research indicates the value of exercise cannot be underestimated as to improving the quality of life and how patients function physically as a result. Conversely, too much rest has been proven to lead to muscle weakness, loss of physical function and a reduction in range of motion. 

The Effect of Exercise on the Cancer Patient:

Maintaining a regular and moderate exercise routine improves overall physical condition, in spite of otherwise debilitating treatments. Moderate exercise is the same level of activity it takes for a brisk walk.

Exercise is instrumental in the following ways:

• Maintain and improve physical abilities
• Improves balance reducing risk of falls, broken bones
• Minimize muscle waste that would otherwise occur from inactivity
Reduce risk of osteoporosis
• Help control body weight
• Improve circulatory blood flow reducing risk of blood clots
• Counteract fatigue, anxiety and depression, reduce symptoms of nausea
• Support independence allowing patients to enjoy social interaction
• Increase overall sense of self-esteem and improve quality of life

Considerations for Types of Exercise Appropriate for Cancer Patients:

A mutual decision can be made between patient and doctor as to what level of exercise is advisable based upon the type and stage of cancer that has been diagnosed, the patient’s fitness and strength level, stamina, and current cancer treatment. Consulting with a physical therapist or exercise physiologist is also useful in determining an appropriate exercise regime.

Some of the considerations are:

• Low white blood cell count
• Low levels of minerals in the blood such as potassium and sodium (often, vomiting and diarrhea may cause this to occur)
• Numbness in the feet


• Avoid public gyms and swimming pools as chlorine may irritate skin that has had radiation treatment (also, if there are catheters or tubes going into the body, to prevent infections)
• Avoid uneven surfaces (may affect balance)
• Resist using heavy weights or doing exercises that would stress the bones
• Drink plenty of fluids

With the conditions of osteoporosis, cancer that may have spread to the bones, arthritis, nerve damage, poor vision, poor balance, or weakness, it is wise to be mindful that these can cause injury or can break a bone. Watch for signs such as swollen ankles, unexplained weight gain, shortness of breath, pain dizziness, or blurred vision after limited exertion or while at rest. It is important, also, to share this information with the physician.

There are also groups where cancer patients can discuss exercise or receive emotional encouragement. There are groups for specific cancers like breast cancer support groups, liver cancer support groups and even mesothelioma support groups.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She became particularly interested in ways cancer patients can cope with the side-effects of their treatment after her mother became an oncology nurse for lung cancer. 

1 comment:

Tony Van Helsing said...

A ex-girlfriend of mine had an aunty with arthritis. She kept it at bay by ballroom dancing.