Breast cancer, physical activity is good even when there are metastases: here’s why

Breast cancer, physical activity is good even when there are metastases: here’s why


Of Vera Martinella

Research presented at the European congress opening in Milan: moving helps reduce pain and tiredness, improves life and limits many side effects of treatments. The effort must be adapted to the individual patient

Exercising and not having extra pounds are confirmed as two golden rules in the fight against cancer. Not just to keep the risk of getting sickbut also to have greater chance of recovery and, no less importantly, to live better if you have one metastatic neoplasm. To reiterate how physical activity is a fundamental tool are the experts gathered in Milan for the European conference on breast cancer (European Breast Cancer Conference). «By now many scientific studies, conducted on millions of people, have shown how practicing sport regularly helps prevent various types of cancer, heal more quickly and significantly reduce the risk of relapses – points out Giuseppe Curigliano, president of the national organizing committee of the congress e director of the Development Division of New Drugs for Innovative Therapies of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) in Milan -. The results of new research presented at the opening of the conference indicate that taking part in a physical exercise program reduces pain and tiredness, as well as improving quality of life of women with metastatic breast cancer.”

A powerful medicine (underestimated)

Relevant information also in light of the numbers: they are approx 55,700 new annual cases in Italy of breast cancer in women, to which are added 1,500 diagnoses in men. Furthermore, in our country they live approximately 52 thousand people with metastatic breast cancer, a number that is constantly increasing. They are patients who today they are able to live with the disease for many years, who must also be able to be of quality, leading a life that is as “normal” as possible. «Working, taking care of the family, having a social and emotional life, carrying out the usual daily activities are concretely achievable objectives – continues Curigliano, who is also full professor of Medical Oncology at the State University of Milan -. AND moving is a “powerful medicine” that is still too often underestimated. In order for the time available to patients to be not only longer, but also of good quality, it is essential that they are taken care of by a multidisciplinary team in Breast centers (or Breast unitin which survival is better) where the most suitable anti-cancer treatments are prescribed in the individual case and evaluated i psychological and physical needswith specific attention also to the side effects of treatments.”

Gymnastics to stem side effects

All anti-cancer treatments can cause unwanted consequences during or immediately after therapiessome are very common such as: skin irritations, nausea and vomit, diarrheainflammation of the oral cavity, loss of appetite and weight, swelling of arms or legs (or lymphedema) they are very widespread. Very widespread and debilitating is the fatiguea complex of symptoms that leads to a reduction in physical energy, mental abilities and also has repercussions on the psychological state. The extent of the disorder is partly subjective and partly depends on what and how “heavy” the treatment prescribed to the individual patient is, whether it is radiotherapy what about chemotherapy or new drugs molecularly targeted e immunotherapy (which are less toxic, but not free from side effects). It is important to talk to your doctor about it because in many cases There are remedies that can combat these problemsalso with regards to unwanted consequences of hormone therapy prescribed to many women And men with breast cancer. A regular exercise during and after therapies can also help to curb some of the most frequent ailments in cancer patients.

The new study

The new research, presented by Anouk Hiensch of the University Medical Center of Utrecht (the Netherlands), involved 357 patients, on average 55 years old, with metastatic breast cancer. The women were recruited in eight cancer centers in Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia: 178 women (randomly selected) were included in a nine-month physical exercise program in addition to their treatment program, while the other 179 followed only their therapeutic path. The program consisted of a personalized training, supervised by a physiotherapist or by a sports physiology expert, twice a week and including resistance exercises, aerobic and balance exercises. At the start of the study and after three, six and nine months, the researchers asked the patients about their level of tiredness and their quality of life, including whether they experienced any type of pain. The results indicate that the participants in the physical activity program tried less effort and they got one better quality of life. The most important improvements were found in patients under 50 years old (but the benefits are great even in age more advanced) and in those who experienced pain at the beginning of the study.

Adapt the effort to the individual patient

«There is a lot of research on the effects of physical exercise in people with early-stage cancer, but there are few studies that deal with the topic in relation to patients with more advanced-stage disease – comments Hiensch -. Based on these findings, we recommend Physical activity under expert supervision as part of standard care for all patients with metastatic breast cancer, particularly for those who experience pain. «It is important that breast cancer patients start physical activity as soon as possible and that they do not stop even during treatments, if possible. No less relevant is that whatever type of activity it is decided by the physiatrist based on the type of operation and the general condition of the patient.” In general, there are no limitations: we range from activities to meditation more or less soft perhaps with physical and muscular commitment to activities carried out in the swimming pool, in the gym or with a personal trainer, by bike or canoe. It’s not about doing marathons or competitions, even short walks are enough for those who can’t face the effort, or simple ones relaxation or yoga exercises which nevertheless contribute to improving the days of patients on a physical and psychological level. «The reason for these benefits also lies in the fact that regular physical activity entails changes at the brain level, inducing calm and relaxation – concludes Curigliano -. The endorphins that are released during exercise have analgesic and euphoric function and improve mood. It increases bodily and mental energy and thus increases the person’s ability to cope with events. Physical activity increases self-confidence and self-esteem thanks to the small objectives and goals that the person achieves day after day. They also improve executive functions, memory and ultimately improves self-perception.”

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March 20, 2024


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