What is Cancer Exactly?
Cancer is the termfor a collection of related diseases. What happens in the body? Some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Today, 1 in 2 Australian men and women are diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. Of these, almost 7 in 10 will survive for at least 5 years after their cancer diagnosis. In Australia the most common cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, breast, bowel, melanoma and lung cancer.
Cancer cells are more abnormal, old or damaged compared to normal cells and survive when they should be destroyed. They can in fact evade the immune system and recruit surrounding normal cells to provide them with nutrients and pathways. It can happen to any cell in the body and the cancer is named after the type of cell and where it originated from. A benign tumour is an abnormal mass of cells not considered cancerous but may be dangerous if pressing on other structures. On the other hand a malignant tumour is a cancerous abnormal mass of cells.
Treatments and Their Effects
People who are diagnosed with cancer often undertake a variety of cancer treatments. It depends on the type of cancer and what works well for the individual. Common treatments will include Surgery, Radiation therapy, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted therapy, Hormone therapy, and Stem cell transplant. Each of these can have notable side effects depending on the person. Common ones are fatigue, skin irritation, and nausea. Fatigue can be a sign also of poor physical fitness which arises from having cancer itself. The impact of treatments on the body, and associated bed rest through battling cancer, causes a loss of muscle and exercise tolerance.
How can we combat the negative effects of cancer and it’s treatment?
The answer is EXERCISE! Exercise combats some of the symptoms of cancer and the treatment side effects. Exercise can also be preventative. It lowers your risk of getting certain cancers, with evidence shown for 13 types of cancer so far.
Benefits of Exercise
- Increased exercise tolerance
- Maintenance of function and independence at home
- Improved quality of life
- Reduced fatigue
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Reduced depression.
Moving Forward with Cancer and Physiotherapy
Due to the importance of exercise for people diagnosed with cancer and cancer survivors, physiotherapists can help safely administer exercises and create a program tailored toward you. Important points physio help you with are safely assessing and adapting exercises to parts of the body affected directly by cancer. Another important aspect physiotherapists can help you with is creating a pacing schedule. This ensures that the exercises are adapted to your current level fatigue. They can then be progressed further as you get stronger and fitter.
Some Exercise Ideas to Get Moving
- Active recreation like bushwalking, swimming, or cycling
- Walking/cycling rather than driving
- Weight training with a personal trainer.
Before starting your exercise program it is advisable to see your GP and Physiotherapist first, to get started on the right type of exercise.
Written by Daniel Zhu