Annually, more than 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer worldwide. This indicates the prevalence of cancer as a universal and relevant disease in society. The most common form of cancer in women, second to lung cancer, is breast cancer. Every three minutes another woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. The woman’s quality of life and self‐worth are affected with this life threatening disease.
Exercise has been recommended for helping cancer patients recover from treatment and surgery. It has been shown that exercise levels after treatment has decreased considerably among patients with breast cancer compared to prediagnosis levels. These activity levels were not regained for 1‐4 years after the treatment was completed. Exercise is not generally integrated into cancer care or even discussed with cancer patients.
The importance of exercise in breast cancer patients
Factors such as bone strength, mobility and cardiopulmonary function are affected due to cancer treatment and surgery and have shown to be preserved or restored through exercise benefits. Exercise patterns among cancer patients have indicated to benefit the patients both during and after treatment. Some of these benefits include improving their quality of life, reducing fatigue and improving their energy and assisting with psychosocial issues. Physical activity also has other positive effects such as improving lymphatic drainage and functional capacity, inhibiting the development of tumors by lowering certain hormone levels, improving the individual’s overall strength and immune response as well as maintaining the individual’s weight at the ideal level.
Exercise principles to minimise the risk of breast cancer
Most studies indicate that physically active women both premenopausal and postmenopausal have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than sedentary women. High levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity during adolescence have also shown to protect individuals more and a lifetime of regular, vigorous activity is thought to be the most beneficial.
The exercise should include cardiovascular training, strength training, range of motion and healthy nutrition.
Cardiovascular training should be of moderate intensity (50‐70% of heart rate reserve), three to five times a week for the duration of 20‐60 minutes between RPE of 11‐14.