The Relationship Between Exercise and Cancer
More patients than ever before are surviving cancer today. The five-year survival rate for all cancers that were diagnosed from 1999–2005 is 68%, up from only 50% in 1975–1977 (American Cancer Society, 2010). This increase is a reflection of improvements in diagnosis as well as treatment. Although survival rates vary greatly between types of cancer and stage at diagnosis, and although the five-year survival rate only represents the percentage of patients who are alive at a certain period in time, it still reflects the fact that more people are living as cancer survivors than ever before. Each of these survivors has experienced some type of cancer treatment, varying from a single surgery to months or even years of radiation and/or chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy. Additionally, these treatments all carry with them potentially harmful side effects, which are varied but may include weakness, fatigue, hair loss, nausea, pain, depression, and others, often culminating in a decline in the quality of life for patients (Hanna, Avila, Meteer, Nicholas, & Kaminsky, 2008).
Cancer-related fatigue, among the many potential side effects associated with cancer treatment, is often recognized as one of the most distressing of side effects patients report and usually is more severe while receiving treatment (Hanna et al., 2008). As patients live longer, research focus has shifted toward a better acknowledgement and understanding of quality of life and how to enhance it. By the mid-1980s, research began to demonstrate that exercise is an effective management tool for some side effects (Hanna et al., 2008). Exercise programs that prevent deconditioning, improve muscle mass, and enhance strength and balance can provide a means for limiting the effects of cancer and the symptoms associated with its treatment.