Cancer Survivors 'Should Exercise', Charity Claims

More than a million cancer survivors could be putting themselves at risk of long-term health problems because they are not physically active enough, a report by Macmillan Cancer Support has claimed.

The charity's report, Move More, said that of the two million cancer survivors in the UK, around 1.6 million were not physically active enough and were at greater risk of other serious health problems and even the recurrence of the disease.

The report also uncovered new evidence which showed the importance of physical activity in aiding recovery and long-term health of cancer patients.

It found that breast cancer patients' risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up 40% by doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, while the risk dropped by 30% of prostate cancer patients.

Bowel cancer patients could halve their risk of dying from the disease by doing around six hours of moderate intensity physical activity a week, compared to those who did less than an hour a week.

The report also found that all cancer patients could reduce their risk of the disease's side effects, such as fatigue, depression, osteoporosis and heart disease, but getting active.

However, the charity said that many health professionals were not aware of the benefits of exercise for cancer patients and said that the majority were not talking to their patients about it.

The report found that 56% of GPs, practice nurses, oncologists and cancer nurses surveyed did not speak to their patients about the possible benefits of physical activity. This figure rose to 72% of GPs and 60% of oncologists.

Traditionally, cancer patients were told to "rest up" after their cancer treatment and to "take it easy". Ciaran Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "The evidence in our report, Move More, shows just how important physical activity is to the recovery process of cancer. Yet very little attention to its benefits is given by health professionals or by those commissioning health services. It is essential that physical activity services are available and 'prescribed' to all cancer patients.

"Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long-term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the gruelling ordeal of treatment all over again.

"It doesn't need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim all count. Health professionals can refer patients to a variety of services such as physiotherapy, specialist exercise programme at leisure centres or walking groups."

Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and a leading clinical onocologist said: "The advice that I would have previously have given to one of my patients would have been to 'take it easy'. This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines.

"There really needs to be a cultural change, so that health professionals see physical activity as an integral part of cancer after care, not just an optional add-on."

Jane., 57, from Christchurch took part in the Bournemouth Active After Cancer Programme (BACSUP), which is run by the charity BH Live and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and Department of Health. She said: "Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn't really do much exercise. I felt pretty down and exhausted after my treatment - it really knocked it out of me.

"I was referred to BACSUP progamme9, where I was given 12 weeks free use of the gym and regular meetings with a specially trained fitness instructor. They suggested I go along to a dragon boat racing group for women who've had breast cancer. I loved it so much, I'm still taking part.

"I feel like a completely different person. I'm much more confident, am much less tired and feel so much better. Who could have imagined me being so full of life after everything I've been through?"


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