Exercise Helps Women Cope With Advanced Breast Cancers

By   |  March 20, 2024

By Dennis Thompson and Carole Tanzer Miller HealthDay Reporters  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

WEDNESDAY, March 20, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise can help women better cope with the rigors of advanced breast cancer, a new study says.

Patients had less pain and fatigue, as well as an improved quality of life, after taking part in a regular exercise program, researchers reported today at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Milan, Italy.

The findings show that patients with breast cancer that’s spread should be offered exercise as part of their treatment regimen, said researcher Anouk Hiensch, an assistant professor of epidemiology and health economics at University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands.

“Patients with metastatic cancer often undergo continuous treatment that aims to prolong their life,” Hiensch said in a news release.

“Thanks to these treatments, many patients with metastatic cancer live longer, but many also report a deteriorating quality of life over time,” he added. “We therefore need supportive care strategies, like exercise, that make the lives of these patients better.”

For this study, 357 patients with advanced breast cancer were recruited at one of eight cancer centers in Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and Australia. Their average age was 55.

Half were randomly assigned a nine-month exercise program alongside cancer therapy, while the other half got usual cancer care.

The exercise group worked out twice a week, with a personalized training regimen that included resistance, aerobic and balance exercises. Patients in both groups also were encouraged to be physically active at least a half-hour every day.

Researchers found the biggest improvements in women under age 50, as well as those who had the most pain at the outset.

The researchers suspect that this improvement took place in part because exercise helps reduce inflammation, Hiensch said.

“Based on these findings, we recommend supervised exercise for all patients with metastatic breast cancer – particularly those who are experiencing pain – as part of their standard care,” Hiensch said. “Older patients did also benefit from exercise; however the program might require some additional fine-tuning for them to benefit as much as younger patients.”

The chair of the European Breast Cancer Conference, Dr. Michail Ignatiadis, called the findings good news for patients with advanced breast cancer.

"It shows that they can enjoy a better quality of life with less fatigue and pain if they take part in an exercise program as part of their package of treatment and care,” he said in the news release.

“People with metastatic cancer cannot always be cured of their disease but they can live for many months or years, so ensuring they have the best possible quality of life is absolutely vital,” added Ignatiadis, a medical oncologist with the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, Belgium. He was not involved in the study.

Findings presented at a medical meeting should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about exercise for women with breast cancer.

SOURCE: European Breast Cancer Conference, news release, March 19, 2024