June is cancer survivor’s month – an opportune time to talk about new strategies to address a major side effect of many cancer therapies – fatigue. Side effects from cancer can be debilitating but there are strategies to help improve and reduce discomforts. I had the privilege of attending the 2019 AICR Research Conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in May. As a certified specialist in oncology nutrition, I appreciate that this conference provides updates on the most current research on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention and survivorship. Learning about new research findings allows me to take this enriched knowledge back to the people in the clinic who are seeking information to help them through cancer treatment.
Almost all of my patients struggle with cancer-related fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is more than being tired. It is more than needing a nap. It is persistent exhaustion regardless of the amount of activity completed that day. This fatigue interferes with a person’s ability to complete even normal daily activities. Being unable to work in your yard, play with your children or grandchildren or spend time enjoying leisurely hobbies significantly decreases quality of life. I often see this side effect lasting years past treatment. Although counterintuitive, studies show that exercise can lessen the effect of cancer-related fatigue.
Exercise indeed can combat cancer-related fatigue better than pharmaceutical options. A meta-analysis discussed at the AICR Research Conference concluded that exercise and psychological interventions should be the first-line treatment prescribed by clinicians for treatment to combat cancer-related fatigue. The best improvements in cancer-related fatigue were seen in studies that used exercise as the primary treatment, rather than medications or psychological treatment.
The exercise regimen for those undergoing cancer treatments is obviously a well-monitored one. Whether patients are getting ready to start
The discussion starts with a review of the ACSM guidelines. I encourage my patients to avoid inactivity as much as possible. If they are going to have
Having the energy to engage in normal daily activities and to return to hobbies is a goal of many of my patients. When cancer-related fatigue improves, quality of life improves. I see the improvement in mood, physical function and in their overall demeanor. Participating in an exercise program through the cancer center or in the community helps provide a structured program with trained experts. I strongly encourage my patients to get involved in a supervised program for best results.
Look for cancer rehabilitation programs in your area. Many local hospitals offer rehabilitation programs like ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation or survivorship exercise classes. LIVESTRONG has partnered with
Thirty minutes per day seems doable for those receiving treatment based on studies but some people may need to work up to this level. Exercising at a moderate to