Exercise a must for all cancer patients

Sarah Wiedersehn

Exercise is the best medicine and should be prescribed to all cancer patients, some of Australia's leading experts say.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia has launched its position statement on the role of exercise alongside surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in cancer care.

Endorsed by a group of 25 influential health and cancer organisations, including Cancer Council Australia, it is the world's first ever researcher-led call for exercise to be an essential component of treatment.

Lead author, Professor Prue Cormie from the Australian Catholic University says the statement is based on "indisputable" evidence.

"Really we are at the stage where the science is telling us that withholding exercise from cancer patients can be harmful," Professor Cormie said.

"Exercise is the best medicine someone with cancer can take in addition to their standard cancer treatments. That's because we know now that people who exercise regularly experience fewer and less severe treatment side-effects; cancer related fatigue, mental distress, quality of life."

They also have a lower risk of their cancer coming back or dying from the disease, said Professor Cormie.

People with cancer are recommended to do two to three resistance sessions a week and at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or such as walking, cycling or swimming.

Gone are the days of wrapping cancer patients in "cotton wool", says David Speakman, Chief Medical Officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

"Our attitudes to treating cancer, what it takes to give people their best chance at survival, have to change. All cancer patients will benefit from an exercise prescription," Dr Speakman said.

Nicole Cooper, 33, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer last year, and believes a big reason why she is still alive is because of the exercise regime she followed while undergoing treatment.

"When I received a terminal cancer diagnosis, I was prescribed two potentially lifesaving cancer treatments: chemotherapy and exercise," she said.

"A year later, I am in remission, having taken just as much exercise as I have chemotherapy," Ms Cooper said.