According to a recent study in JACC, exercising during chemotherapy can greatly improve physical and mental health. Exercise is a crucial part of any cancer treatment plan. However, it is important to take your time and be patient with yourself as you start to gradually increase your activity levels. Let your body be your guide.
Even if you weren’t active before your cancer diagnosis, a fitness program that meets your individual needs can help you get moving safely and effectively. Physical activity can also help you cope with the common side effects of chemo and decrease your risk of new cancers in the future.
If you feel well enough to start exercising, getting more physically active can improve the body’s response to treatment regardless of the stage or type of cancer. Regular exercise has been shown to:
Patients should start slowly and increase activity gradually. Always talk to your doctor before starting a program during cancer treatment. Start with walking and once you feel comfortable, you can work your way up to more brisk walks. If you feel you can push it more, try increasing amounts of aerobic exercise like running, swimming, or cycling.
After treatment, it will take time to return to your desired fitness level. Listen to your body and take rest days as you need them. Your healthcare team should be able to advise you on the best workout regimen for you or provide you with the guidance you need. You may have access to a local certified cancer exercise therapist who can create the ideal exercise plan for you.
As a general rule, the CDC recommends at least 2 days of full-body strength training each week for healthy adults, so consider using this as your long-term goal. A strength training program can include free weights, cardio machines, resistance bands, and your own body weight.
Your ideal individual exercise plan to start with will depend on:
Make sure you start slowly, listen to your body, and drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated is especially important if you are still going through chemotherapy, or experiencing side effects from your treatment.
As you get going, please remember everyone is different. This isn’t a competition. Just start moving and do what you can. Be patient with yourself and the rest will come. You’ve got this.
Co-created by leading specialists and patient advocates, Breast Advocate® is a free breast cancer surgery app that provides ALL your surgical options along with evidence-based recommendations, personalized for you. Download our free app today!
It is common for women being treated for breast cancer to experience changes that affect their sexual health during, and after treatment, according to a recent study published in Acta Oncologica.
Just under 700 cancer patients were included in the study. Over 60% reported having some sort of sexual dysfunction. Lymphoma and cervical, ovarian, breast, and brain cancers were among the cancer types represented. In the cancer group, the mean age was 34.5 years, while in the control group, it was 29.7 years. The majority of people in both groups were heterosexual (93% in both groups) and had a partner (85% in the cancer cohort and 81% in the control cohort).
Overall, 63% of patients with cancer and 53% of the control group reported sexual dysfunction in at least 1 of the following:
“A majority of women diagnosed with cancer before the age of 40 experience sexual dysfunction, and they do so to a significantly higher extent than young women of the general population,” the researchers concluded. “Women with gynecological and breast cancers reported more sexual dysfunction than the general population…. Our results underscore the need to routinely assess sexual health in clinical care and follow-up.”
You’re not alone if you’re struggling with issues affecting your sexuality. Following a breast cancer diagnosis, sex and intimacy can be challenging for many women.
Below are ways to manage common sexual health issues:
Learn more about sexual health needs after breast cancer.
Make a list of questions to ask your doctor or nurse as you consider the changes that treatment has made in your life. Think about including these on your list:
For more on body image and sexuality after breast cancer, head to the American Cancer Society.