Exercise and Breast Cancer Survival

By Bruce G. Gilbert
Balanced Fitness
A.C.E. certified, U.C.L.A. ext. certified

Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. Breast cancer is a malignant (cancerous) growth that starts in the breast tissues and is the most common cancer in women but also appears in men. In the U.S., it affects one in eight women. Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules (the milk-producing glands) or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissue which includes the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.

In recent years, there's been an explosion of life-saving treatment advances against breast cancer, bringing new hope. Instead of only one or two treatment options, today there's an overwhelming menu of treatment choices that fight the complex mix of cells in each individual cancer. These include surgery, then perhaps radiation, hormonal (anti-estrogen) therapy, targeted therapy and/or chemotherapy. After a breast cancer diagnosis, you and your doctors will put together a treatment plan specific to your unique situation.

Unfortunately, all of these treatments have side effects. Breast surgery frequently results in decreased strength and range of motion of the affected arm and shoulder. Side effects from other treatments include fatigue, nausea, pain, difficulty sleeping, lowered self-concept, anxiety and depression. Weight gain is often associated with chemotherapy as well.

Exercise training is now emerging as part of a breast cancer patient's treatment plan. Exercise in all forms is beneficial to breast cancer survivors helping to improve quality of life as well as increase survival rates. Here are just a few benefits of exercise training during and following cancer treatment:

  • Improved quality of life

  • Enhanced psychological well-being

  • Increased muscle strength

  • Increased flexibility

  • Increased range of motion of the affected shoulder post mastectomy

  • Decreased fatigue associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy

  • Lowered the incidence of nausea during chemotherapy

  • Reduce the attenuation of weight gain associated with chemotherapy

  • Improved sleep patterns

Early detection and a medical team is critical to improving the chances of living beyond a diagnosis of breast cancer. Being diagnosed is never easy, but once you start the process of getting the best available doctors, the best information, joining support groups and allowing encouragement from those who love you will ease some of the fears.


Bruce G. Gilbert
Balanced Fitness

Call me at (213) 703-8554 or e-mail me at bruce@balancedfitnessla.com for a
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NOTE: This publication is not intended for use as a source of medical advice. You should obtain medical advice from your private healthcare practitioner. Before beginning any exercise or dietary program, consult with your physician to ensure that you are in proper health and that this or any exercise or dietary program will not put you at risk.

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