Cancer treatment and long-term fitness considerations

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  • #42215

    Does anyone have any experience with or knowledge about breast cancer treatment and it’s implications for long-term training? Someone dear to me is about to start breast cancer treatment, and while I fully understand that performance is not the priority and this is not the time to add additional stress to the body, I worry about the mental health aspects of losing so much ground and digging out of that hole. I’d love to thoughts on how to best maintain and re-build. I’m a PT and have a strong background in exercise physiology, so any suggestions on resources/texts/articles/CME courses would be much appreciated.

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    Thomas Summer, MD on #42227

    Hi kimgivler!

    Sorry to read that about your friend.

    The physical and mental impacts, she will have to face, will depend mostly on the stage of the disease, as well as the kind of treatment. And of course her current fitness level. So this is quite individual. I highly recommend talking to her physician about the training.
    Nevertheless, there is good evidence that physical training is very beneficial for breast cancer patients. This was also shown in a big Swedish study:

    I’m currently not working with cancer patients. But back in medical school a prof., some other students, and I were “training” with cancer patients. This was only fast walking, but the patients really enjoyed and benefited from it. Also, the conversations were very helpful for them. And despite the serious diagnosis, we had a lot of fun.

    All the best to you and your friend!

    hafjell on #67306

    Hi Kim,

    Tl/dr: yes to what Dr. Thomas wrote.

    I have been participating in various forms of treatment and recovery for 3 decades while running around the mountains. Radiation, experimental chemo and 4 surgeries. In my opinion all of the studies and resources may be useful, but the patient will have her own experience. I would have her listen to her body. Following the warm-up method of “I’ll just run slowly for ten minutes and see how I feel before deciding to continue with workouts” may suffice to avoid over-training / exertion. Steve and Scott have here, and in other writings, recommended listening to the body with more eloquence than I state here. Just remember her experience is unlikely to be linear. There will be set-backs. There may be days when she unexpectedly feels fine. Outside of protocols which hammer her immune system, the doctors may let her exercise according to her own wishes. My 2 cents.

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