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Exercise Benefits Cancer Patients Even 4 Years Later

Published on | g-comprehensive

From Medscape, February 18, 2018

Cancer patients who exercise regularly while undergoing adjuvant therapy appear to be more physically active years after their treatment ends. In addition, in cancer patients who participated in an exercise program during therapy, there was a tendency toward less fatigue over both the short and long term, according to new findings.

“The take-home message is that offering exercise during cancer treatment is recommended and has beneficial short- and long-term health effects,” said lead author Anne M. May, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

She was speaking at a press briefing held in advance of the upcoming Cancer Survivorship Symposium (CSS) Advancing Care and Research, in Orlando, Florida, where the results will be presented.

May noted that this study is the first to show that patients who are physically active during cancer treatment maintain higher levels of physical activity over the long term, which is highly beneficial for their health and well-being.

She explained that these results come from the long-term follow-up of the PACT trial, a Dutch study that investigated whether exercise during chemotherapy can reduce treatment-related side effects, including cancer-related fatigue.

“Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most distressing side effect of treatment,” said May, “and it can persist for many years after treatment. That is the reason why we studied whether exercise for people during treatment with chemotherapy would prevent patients from developing severe fatigue.”

Study Details

The PACT study was a two-armed, multicenter randomized controlled trial that compared an 18-week supervised exercise program to usual care among 204 breast cancer patients and 33 colon cancer patients who were undergoing adjuvant treatment, including chemotherapy.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either usual care or a supervised exercise intervention that included 60 minutes of combined moderate- to high-intensity aerobic and strength training twice a week, plus 30 minutes of home-based physical activity 3 days a week.

The team previously reported short-term benefit from the exercise program, noting that patients in the intervention arm experienced less fatigue than those in the usual-care arm (BMC Medicine. 2015;13:121)


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