One in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime (American Cancer Society). Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are often used concurrently to treat breast cancer patients resulting in a 90% survival rate. Unfortunately, side effects of these treatments are common and include fatigue, upper extremity functional limitations, and lymphedema.
Exercise with Thera-Band® resistance has been shown beneficial in breast cancer survivors in several studies (Mustian KM, et al. 2009; Schwartz AL and Winters-Stone K. 2009). Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute developed individualized whole-body exercise prescriptions for breast cancer survivors.
Breast cancer survivors participated in 2 to 3 days per week of supervised exercise consisting of 10 minutes of warm-up, 40 minutes of aerobic and resistance training, and stretching and cool-down for 10 minutes. While not specifically outlined in their paper published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, the researchers described their program in a separate publication in Strength and Conditioning Journal. Interestingly, the researchers included balance training, progressing from stable to unstable surfaces using balance pads and exercise balls because balance seems to be an issue after chemotherapy.
114 breast cancer survivors participated in the study. 29 women completed 3 months of exercise, 68 completed 6 months, and 17 served as sedentary controls. Each subject was tested for cardiovascular endurance, pulmonary function, muscle endurance, fatigue, and symptoms of depression before and after the intervention.
The 3- and 6-month exercise participants significantly improved in cardiovascular endurance, fatigue and symptoms of depression; in addition, those exercising 6 months experienced additional improvements in pulmonary function and muscular endurance. There were no improvements in the control group.
The researchers concluded that while 3 months of exercise is beneficial for breast cancer survivors, 6 months of exercise provide additional benefits. Thera-Band exercise balls and Stability Trainers can easily be integrated into exercise programs for breast cancer survivors to progressively challenge balance, which is important to train following chemotherapy.
REFERENCE: Sprod LK, et al. Three versus six months of exercise training in breast cancer survivors. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Jun;121(2):413-9.