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Exercise: Its role in fighting fatigue with cancer

Cancer is defined as abnormal cell growths that multiply without control. It’s a word that no one wants to hear, in any context. But with more than 120,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed yearly, there’s a high probability that it has affected someone very close to you, or someone you know.

And having watched those people go through cancer, and the intense treatment that goes with it, or go through it yourself; you’d know the side effects they had to endure and how it affected their lives and also those around them. . These harsh treatments take a huge toll on the human body, leaving behind many side effects that can last for months, or years after treatment. Just some of these include immune dysfunction, pain, hair loss, negative changes in body composition including weight, decreased bone health, swelling (lymphedema), bowel changes and fertility issues. But the most common, and often the most debilitating side effect of all is fatigue.

Listening to cancer patients talk about the fatigue; it’s described like no other type of fatigue most of us have experienced, it cannot be improved necessarily from sleep or rest. Often felt like it takes over your entire body, it’s a severe tiredness that becomes very debilitating influencing all aspects of their life. And each individual has a different experience to the next. So how do we help treat this debilitating side effect to help improve a patient’s quality of life during and after treatment?

Watch the link below, to learn a little more about cancer related fatigue and how you can manage your symptoms.

Research shows that a low to moderate exercise program has been shown to reduce the symptoms of cancer related fatigue and increase your quality of life. Often patients respond well to aerobic activities, with the most common of these being walking. But each individual is different, which is why it’s important you have a support system and a care team that right for you.

Our Exercise Physiologists work closely with doctors, surgeons and specialists to help formulate an exercise plan that is right for you, which can include activities that you enjoy the most. This is particularly important with the dosage and intensity of exercise, which can be hard to judge especially in the earlier stages during and post treatment. And as fatigue can last for different lengths of time for different people, it is important that your levels of exercise are well managed throughout the entire length of time, and through the potential ups and downs.

For more information on our Exercise Physiology services, or to book an appointment, please call Canning Vale on 6162 2616 or Hilton 6161 4091 or click to book online.


Fernando C. Dimeo, Monika H. M. Tilmann, Hartmut Bertz, Lothar Kanz, Roland Mertelsmann , Joseph Keul . 1997, ‘Aerobic exercise in the rehabilitation of cancer patients after high dose chemotherapy and autologous peripheral stem cell transplantation’, Cancer, May 1;79(9):1717-22.

Hayes SC1, Spence RR, Galvão DA, Newton RU, 2009, ‘Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science position stand: optimising cancer outcomes through exercise’, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , July 12(4):428-34.

Schmitz KH, Courneya KS, Matthews C, Demark-Wahnfried W, Galvao DA, Pinto BM, Irwin ML, Wolin KY, Segal RJ, Jucia A, Schneider CM, von Gruenigen VE, Schwartz AL, 2010, ‘American College of Sports Medicine roundtable on exercise guidelines for cancer survivors‘, American College of Sports Medicine, Jul; 42(7): 1409-26.

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