Few Doctors Discuss Exercise With Cancer Patients: Study

SUNDAY Sept. 2, 2012 -- Even though research has shown that exercise offers significant benefits in cancer care and recovery, many patients are reluctant to exercise and few discuss it with their oncologists, according to a new study.

Exercise can improve cancer patients' mobility, which enables them to enjoy activities and prevents them from becoming isolated in their homes. It can contribute to overall feelings of strength and physical safety, ease cancer-related fatigue and improve sleep, notes a Mayo Clinic news release.

And, regular exercise in patients who have gone through breast or colon cancer treatment has been found to reduce cancer recurrence by up to 50 percent, the release noted.

"As doctors, we often tell patients that exercise is important, but to this point, nobody had studied what patients know about exercise, how they feel about it and what tends to get in the way," study lead author Dr. Andrea Cheville, of the Mayo Clinic's department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, said in the news release.

She and her colleagues found that patients who exercised regularly before their cancer diagnosis were more likely to exercise after treatment. They also found that many patients considered daily activities, such as gardening, to be sufficient exercise and didn't realize that these activities tend to require minimal effort.

"Most were not aware that inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including symptoms of cancer," Cheville said.

Cancer patients took exercise advice most seriously when it came directly from an oncologist, but none of the patients in the study said their oncologist had discussed exercise with them.

"Generally, patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes," Cheville said in the news release.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers healthy living guidelines for cancer survivors.

Posted: September 2012


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