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Exercise is key for breast cancer survivors, but few meet guidelines

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Exercise is key for breast cancer survivors, but few meet guidelines

Women who have survived breast cancer often require regular lab tests to detect recurrence, in addition to other healthy lifestyle changes. Recently, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that while female breast cancer survivors can greatly benefit from getting regular exercise, few meet national physical activity guidelines.

According to the scientists, past research has shown a strong association between physical activity and reduced mortality, extended survival and higher quality of life for breast cancer survivors, so it's important to understand what barriers are keeping these women from working out.

Not just aging
To come to their conclusions, the researchers examined more than 630 breast cancer survivors between the ages of 18 and 64 from New Mexico, Los Angeles County and western Washington. They followed these individuals over the course of 10 years. They said that five years after after diagnosis, more than 39 percent of these women complied with U.S. physical activity guidelines, which call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. However, that number dropped to 21 percent at 10 years. Furthermore, the researchers said that overall only 8 percent of survivors met the guidelines throughout the whole course of the study.

"It seems unlikely that this pattern reflects aging alone given the consistency and magnitude of the trend across all age groups," said study authors Caitlin Mason, Ph.D. and Anne McTiernan, Ph.D. "Whether this reflects a cohort effect or a unique aspect of the cancer survivorship experience is unclear."

The scientists explained that the factors contributing to whether breast cancer survivors will exercise are likely different than what influences the general population. Furthermore, they said it's important for healthcare professionals to pin down what these factors are so they can encourage these women to get the physical activity they need.

Working out after treatment
WebMD states that along with potentially reducing the risk of cancer recurrence, exercise may also improve mood and reduce fatigue among survivors. This may help survivors get back to their normal routines. The medical news source recommended that if survivors aren't ready to participate in vigorous activity following their treatment, they should start with some simple stretching exercises, and then work their way up to jogging, swimming and resistance training.

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