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Exercise: A prescription for breast cancer survivors

It has been well established over the last 10 years that exercise is an important prescription for cancer prevention. But for breast cancer survivors, exercise has also been proving itself an integral component of survivorship as well. Exercise may and should become part of your “prescription” management plan as a breast cancer survivor.

Studies have shown that getting modest amounts of exercise, even just a daily half-hour walk, can substantially improve some patients’ chances of surviving breast cancer.

Women who walk at a moderate pace for four hours a week can actually lower their risk of developing breast cancer by an average of 25 percent, compared to sedentary women.

The Collaborative Women’s Longevity Study by the Breast Cancer Family Registry studied more than 4000 breast cancer survivors and reported a 51 percent decrease in breast cancer mortality among the most physically active survivors. Several studies also report exercise prevents colon cancer and could reduce the chances of developing endometrial, kidney and esophageal cancer.

Exercise as a Lifestyle

Experts state that moderate exercise is safe and can improve cancer survivors’ health in many ways. Those who walk and perform a moderate amount of housework or hobbies are less likely to develop many common health problems — including heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that cancer survivors get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity in addition to your normal daily activities at least five days of the week. For further breast cancer risk reduction, 45 minutes or more “is even better.”

It has been suggested that women with tumors that are sensitive to estrogen are more likely to reap greater benefits from exercise. Stored fat produces estrogen that can fuel breast cancer growth, therefore, by exercising, it helps to burn body fat — reducing circulating estrogen levels as well as the chance of growth or recurrence.

So whether you are looking to prevent breast cancer or to prolong your life after a breast cancer diagnosis, keep in mind that exercise is a prescription that can help you keep living life to the fullest. Before beginning any exercise program, patients should consult with their physician.

For more information about the benefits of exercise as it relates to cancer, see American Cancer Society’s guidelines.   

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About the author

Hannah J. Bennett, PT, DPT, CSCS

Hannah Bennett is a physical therapist on the medical staff at Scott & White Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Round Rock.

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Exercise: A prescription for breast cancer survivors