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Plea for cancer patient fitness

Tuesday August 9th, 2011

Tens of thousands of people who have undergone successful treatment for cancer need encouragement to undertake regular exercise, campaigners warned yesterday.

Even hospital specialists frequently fail to discuss the benefits of keeping fit with their patients, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The organisation conducted a survey of UK GPs, practice nurses, oncologists and cancer nurses and found that in total no more than 44 per cent make a point of talking to cancer patients about keeping fit.

This applied to 28 per cent of GPs and 40 per cent of oncologists - leaving nurses to do most of the talking. Some 400 professionals took part in the survey.

The organisation combined the survey with details of the evidence of the benefits of keeping fit.

It says that: women with breast cancer can cut their risk of recurrence by up to 40 per cent; bowel cancer patients can cut the risk by up to half - and men with prostate cancer can reduce it by up to 30 per cent.

Exercise will also cut side effects such as fatigue, depression, osteoporosis and heart disease, it says.

In Bournemouth, the charity has been sponsoring an activity programme, which includes dragon-boating.

Participant Jane said: "They suggested I go along to a dragon boat racing group for women who’ve had breast cancer. I loved it so much, I’m still taking part.

"I feel like a completely different person. I’m much more confident, am much less tired and feel so much better. Who could have imagined me being so full of life after everything I’ve been through?"

Chief executive Ciaran Devane said: "Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the grueling ordeal of treatment all over again.

"It doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous, doing the gardening, going for a brisk walk or a swim all count.

"Health professionals can refer patients to a variety of services such as physiotherapy, specialist exercise programmes at leisure centres or walking groups."

And its chief medical officer Dr Jane Maher said: "The advice that I would have previously have given to one of my patients would have been to ‘take it easy’. This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines.

"There really needs to be a cultural change, so that health professionals see physical activity as an integral part of cancer after care, not just a optional add-on."

Tags: Cancer | Fitness | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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