Managing the side-effects of cancer treatment

There is a cancer diagnosis made in Australia every few minutes. With the ongoing advancements in modern medicine, there now exists a range of different treatment options to manage most cancer diagnoses, however many of these treatments carry a range of harsh side effects, such as pain and fatigue. Given these side effects and many others, a crucial addition to many cancer survivors' treatment is exercise.There is also established evidence to show how being active can help reduce the risk of developing cancers, such as breast cancer. 

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects for cancer survivors. Both aerobic and resistance based exercise can help manage fatigue and overall function with appropriate pacing depending on an individual's symptoms.

Anxiety and Depression are also common side-effects for cancer survivors given the complexities and stress involved in the treatment journey. Moderate aerobic exercise will help to manage these symptoms through circulation of “feel good hormones”. Aerobic exercise paired with strength based activities and completed within a group environment may add further benefit to managing these symptoms.

Lymphedema can be experienced post surgery or radiation treatment in breast cancer survivors. Exercise is a safe way to create movement of muscles and blood flow to help shift lymphatic fluid through the body and lessen symptoms. 

Chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy treatment can also cause reduction in bone health. Exercise, especially resistance based will add load on our bones causing them to adapt and increase in strength. 

It is advised that cancer survivors have an individually tailored exercise program, as they will have differing levels of function due to their treatment side effects as well as individual aims and goals for exercise or activity. As always, it is important to discuss exercise with your treatment team including medical specialist, general practitioner, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist prior to beginning an exercise program.