How Breast Cancer Can Be Impacted By Movement And Exercise.

October is here!  That means we should be seeing the leaves changing color, maybe a bit more rain and a lot more pink ribbons. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and with the launch of our new Cancer Rehabilitation Program I thought it would be beneficial to help increase awareness of how movement, exercise, and education can significantly impact people’s breast cancer journey.

Ontario Cancer Care and the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia have both stated that exercise should be an integral part of a patient’s treatment plan and here are a few reasons why:

  • Relieves Joint and Muscle Pain side effects from common medications
  • Helps reduce estrogen production in the body- one of the main hormones linked to breast cancer
  • A leading cause of recurrence in breast cancer is related to gaining weight. Those who did not gain 5-10lbs after diagnosis were 50% less likely to have a recurrence.
  • Exercise has been shown to reduce pain severity by 30% in breast cancer survivors

Pain is one of the main barriers to participating in an exercise program after treatments. So how can one overcome this barrier to start becoming more active?

  • Learn about pain – just knowing what is happening to your body and how to better interpret the signals can relieve pain significantly. Knowing why you have numbness/tingling in your arms or shoulder and what can be contributing to your pain (stress, poor sleeping habits, fear. medications etc… ) can all help reduce the pain you are experiencing.
  • Move and exercise areas that are not as sensitive often. This has been shown to reduce sensitivity in the impacted area and can lead to increased tolerance to activity in the impacted limb over time.
  • Start low and go slow- you don’t have to conquer Rome in a day when it comes to exercise. Any movements and activities that you do are beneficial. Sometimes the goal can be to spend less time sedentary.

Here are a couple of myths when thinking of exercise for Breast Cancer Survivors.:

  • I cannot exercise because of my Lymphoedema: False
    1. Although exercise has yet to be shown to improve lymphodema, it has not been shown to make it worse. Therefore, it is still recommended for women to have a regular, progressive exercise routine even if you are experiencing lymphedema. Compression garments are recommended if available (Singh et al. 2015).
  • I am more likely to succeed if I exercise on my own: False
    1. It has been shown time and time again that supervised or group exercise settings have greater success in keeping people exercising in the long term. This long term adherence is key as breast cancer survivors who participate regularly reduce their risk of recurrence by 50%. If you don’t have access to supervised exercise, grab a buddy!

No matter where you are at in your Breast Cancer journey, movement, education and exercise play a significant role in recovery and quality of life. If you want to move easier, have less pain, feel more energized or not feel sick, learning, moving and exercising can be the key to unlock those doors.

More information on the One to One Wellness Cancer Rehab program here.