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Bootcamp during chemo boosts your chances

Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer can improve their survival chances by exercising during the treatment period. We draw this conclusion from a small study that oncologists at the University of Texas published in Breast Cancer: Basic and Clinical Research.

Exercise & cancer
Physical activity not only reduces the chances of developing cancer. If you already have cancer, then a lifestyle that involves large amounts of physical exercise improves your chances of survival. As far as we know there's no upper limit to the amount of physical activity: the more active you are, the more likely you are to survive the cancer.

Studies also seem to indicate that physical exercise helps cancer patients to get through their chemotherapy. Physical exercise may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and probably also reduces the side effects of the medication. But before you can make assertions like this you have to do research, and thatís exactly what the Texans have done.

The researchers did an experiment with 10 women, all of whom were being treated for estradiol-sensitive breast cancer. The average age of the women was 55, all were overweight and had a tumour of at least 3 cm. Apart from that, and the fact that they had cancer, they were all healthy.

The women underwent chemotherapy, and were treated with adriamycin, cyclophosphamide and taxol. Half of the women did nothing else; the other half did bootcamp-type training for three hours a week from the first week of their chemotherapy. They continued this throughout their chemotherapy, which lasted 4-6 months.

The training sessions consisted of jumping jacks, running in place and strength training for upper and lower body using elastic bands and weights up to 3 kg. The trainers encouraged the women to find the limits to their endurance capacity, but not to exceed them.

Bootcamp during chemo boosts your chances
When the researchers examined the women they noticed that the tumours that had been surgically removed were smaller in the bootcamp group than in the control group. Moreover, the concentration of the Ki-67 protein had decreased in the tumours of all the bootcamp women.

Ki-67 [structure shown here] is a marker for cancer. The higher the concentration of this protein in your body, the faster tumours grow.

Many women who are treated for breast cancer put on weight, and this extra weight is made up almost entirely of fat. Studies have shown that excess body fat reduces the survival chances of cancer patients. The BMI of the bootcamp women went down by almost 3 points however.

Bootcamp during chemo boosts your chances

Bootcamp during chemo boosts your chances

Bootcamp during chemo boosts your chances

"The results from this pilot study are promising, and support the use of and feasibility of exercise regimens in the neoadjuvant setting", the researchers conclude. "Exercise may be a potentially useful tool for impacting tumor biology, in addition to the known quality of life improvements."

Breast Cancer (Auckl). 2012;6:39-46.

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