Cancer and an Old Wonder Drug

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

A recent study by the Macmillan Cancer Support found that only 20% of patients who have gone through cancer treatment are properly informed as to the very important benefits of exercise. You might say, “Don’t give me more bull about exercise and don’t try to tell me that exercise cures cancer.”  Well, exercise doesn’t cure cancer, but it sure looks like it helps to prevent it; and that makes it a Wonder Drug.

Here are some real examples shown in this study.  Exercise has been shown to reduce the recurrence of bowel cancer by 50%, and reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer by more than 33%. While multiple studies have shown similar results, this new research shows that the message is still not being passed on to cancer patients. Why? Because according to Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer, “It’s easier to tell patients to take it easy and rest.”  That simply re-enforces the myth that resting is always the right thing to do. It’s a myth that has to be broken by health care providers when advising patients who have been afflicted by cancer.

Another recent study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that 50% of adults with advanced cancer experience a fall with an extraordinary high risk of injury.  We all know that appropriate exercises geared towards improving balance and strength will reduce fatigue and the chance of falling and injury.

So what’s the take away? If you or a loved one has gone through the grueling experience of cancer therapy, recognize the importance of an exercise program to help prevent recurrence of cancer, reduce fatigue, reduce depression, and reduce the chance of falls and fractures.  It’s real…Talk to your health care professional about it.

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