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Physical activity for breast cancer: benefit or harm

An active lifestyle can significantly improve your health and also help you cope with the emotional side of treatment. The main thing is to know how to adapt to current conditions and be careful.

“Exercise has many benefits for breast cancer survivors,” says Carmen Bergom, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, pharmacology and toxicology at the Milwaukee College of Medicine. She says most popular sports are safe for patients to do as long as they move slowly and don't overdo the intensity of the activity.

In this article we will look at why it is so important to be proactive when dealing with breast cancer. We will also introduce you to the rules that must be followed before and during training.

Is exercise for breast cancer a good or bad idea?

If you have been diagnosed breast cancer, Do not give up. Experts from the American Cancer Society argue that much more benefit will come not from moral torment, but from active physical training lasting at least 4 hours a week.

In April 2019, Breast magazine published an interesting analytical report based on 10 studies. The scientific experiments involved women who had breast cancer. As it turned out, those who played sports during treatment had a 40% lower chance of death than those leading a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, regular physical exercise reduces the risk of relapse by 40-50%.

Why is sport so beneficial for breast cancer? The fact is that exercise helps curb the growth of adipose tissue. This is important because fat cells contain estrogen, a hormone that, according to the NGO, stimulates the growth of many types of breast cancer.

And this is just the beginning. Research shows that exercising during and after cancer treatment provides other benefits, such as:

  1. Fewer side effects from treatment. An active lifestyle can relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy, reduce the risk of blood clots, and combat constipation.
  2. More energy. According to the US National Comprehensive Cancer Network, athletes experience less fatigue and adapt more quickly to changing conditions.
  3. Improved mood. According to research published in December 2018 in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, patients who exercise regularly have lower levels of anxiety and depression.
  4. More mobility. Targeted stretching exercises can reduce tension in the muscles of your arms and shoulders. Typically, tone develops as a result of scar tissue formation associated with surgery or radiation.
  5. Healthier and stronger bones. Anticancer therapy increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. And resistance exercise such as walking, jogging, and strength training can help combat bone loss.
  6. Strong muscles. Sport helps restore strength, strengthen the body and make everyday life easier. Thanks to physical activity, you will avoid the loss of muscle mass that is observed in most patients during antitumor therapy.
  7. No problems sleeping. According to research, exercise is one of the best remedies for insomnia in both healthy people and those with breast cancer.

Is it risky to exercise if you have breast cancer?

Experts agree that exercising during and after breast cancer treatment is safe and even beneficial. But it is important to follow the instructions and precautions outlined by your doctor. In particular:

Always start at an easy pace and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout.
If you're into strength training, start with light weights to avoid side effects.
Unfortunately, surgery, drug therapy, and radiation therapy can trigger the development of lymphedema, a pathological condition in which increasing swelling of the soft tissues of the arms, body, or chest appears. The process is painful, leads to trophic disorders and the risk of skin infection.

Some doctors have expressed concerns that high-repetition strength training may increase the risk of developing lymphedema. But if you start with very light weights and gradually increase the intensity, then the likelihood of swelling does not increase.

According to, "...there is a small very risk of developing lymphedema from normal or controlled physical activity. In fact, such activity may be useful for possible prevention of pathology after undergoing surgery or radiation therapy."

It is also important to consider this fact: regular exercise can help cope with fatigue, but during the treatment the patient may be too exhausted to exercise. Don't put pressure on yourself, better listen to your body and take a break.

Of course, there are other risks associated with your treatment plan or health problems to consider. Everything is very individual, so ask the opinion of your doctor and strictly follow his recommendations.


Exercise in moderation has a positive effect on patients with breast cancer. But you can’t do without medical help even in drawing up a training plan. If you need professional advice, call OncoCare Clinic 308!

Call 8 (499) 322-23-08

Author of the article:

Aleksanyan Aleksan Zavenovich

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