Mainstream doctors who treat cancer have a powerful arsenal of drugs at their command. But these drugs are more notable for their horrible side effects than for their effectiveness at treating cancer.
So, as an “add-on” to standard treatment, more and more oncologists and researchers are offering cancer patients a kind of do-it-yourself therapy to treat tumors. In many instances, this therapy makes chemotherapy more effective.
Besides that, the DIY therapy also helps ease the side effects of cancer drugs. And it costs nothing.
The “new” miracle therapy?
Keep reading to find out how this “alternative” is becoming mainstream. . .
Exposing the Hidden Danger
There’s a huge threat to your eyesight. Without realizing it, we’ve been “starving” our eyes for decades.
And that’s a real problem. When your eyesight starts to fail, suddenly you can’t go to the grocery store… you can’t get to the doctor if you have an emergency… and you’re afraid to even be out after dark.
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But there’s something you need to know.
Your “regular” doctor and eye doctor don’t have time to keep up with the latest research. They go to school to learn how to fit you for glasses and contacts, but have no way of preventing the damage and loss of eyesight that threatens your freedom.
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“Exercise oncology” is actually becoming a new medical specialty.
“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,” says Ciaran Devane, former head of the MacMillan Cancer Support, a non-profit group in England that provides resources to people with cancer.
One of the biggest benefits of using exercise to treat cancer is that it can potentially keep the disease from coming back after treatment. As I’ve explained before, even when a doctor tells you that his drugs have wiped out all evident signs of your cancer, in many cases cancer cells continue to lurk in your body, ready to take root and start another tumor.
But regular physical activity can greatly reduce the chances of a cancer comeback.
A study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston found that folks being treated for colon cancer shrank their risk of a recurrence of the cancer or dying from the cancer by up to 50 percent when they made exercise part of their treatment regimen.1
The Dana-Farber research indicated that colon cancer patients who exercised regularly enjoyed this extra cancer protection for up to three years after their surgery or chemotherapy treatments for stage III colon cancer.
“There is a growing body of evidence that there are things you can do in addition to chemotherapy for colon cancer survivors to reduce the likelihood that the disease will recur,” says researcher Jeffrey Meyerhardt. “Until now, when doctors were asked by their patients whether they should exercise, some of them probably said it would be a good idea, but it wasn’t a firm recommendation without data to support it.”
In technical terms, the scientists found that exercising at a rate of at least 18 MET-hours per week was necessary to benefit from physical activity. The MET rating is a precise measurement that allows exercise physiologists to calculate how intense an activity is.
But what you need to know is that to exercise this much, you need to jog from three to four hours weekly or play tennis every other day or walk at a brisk pace for about an hour a day.
To some people that may sound like a lot of exercise. But consider the alternative – living under a greater threat that cancer will come back and you will have to endure more treatments. And exercise brings multiple additional benefits, including lower risk of dementia and general improvement in mood and health.
Easing the pain of chemotherapy
There’s another important benefit to combining exercise with chemotherapy no matter what kind of cancer you’re being treated for. Exercise reduces chemotherapy’s harsh side effects.
A study at the University of Rochester Wilmot Cancer Institute shows that exercise can ward off the torturous nerve pain (neuropathy) that chemotherapy often causes.2
The research, which involved more than 300 people, found that a relatively simple walking program, along with a resistance workout that entailed pulling on resistance-bands, reduced neuropathic symptoms in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
During the six-week study, people who exercised got relief from the tingling, numbness, burning sensations, shooting pains and exacerbated cold sensitivity that is linked to receiving chemotherapeutic agents. And the benefits were notably stronger for older patients.
While not every cancer patient getting chemotherapy suffers these problems, the Rochester researchers say that three of every five people with breast cancer or other solid tumors who are treated with platinoid-based chemotherapies, taxanes and vince alkaloids endure these side effects.
And right now there are no FDA-approved drugs that can treat or prevent chemotherapy-linked neuropathy.
Boost your energy level
In addition, one of the most frequent — and distressing — side effects of cancer treatment is overwhelming fatigue. According to the researchers at the University of Rochester, “Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is the most common and most debilitating side-effect reported by cancer survivors.”3
The investigators also report that, to cancer patients, their fatigue is “more distressing and having a greater negative impact on their daily activities and QOL (quality of life) than other cancer-related side effects including vomiting, nausea, pain, and depression.”
Virtually everyone who is treated for cancer suffers some degree of cancer-related fatigue. And up to four out of every five cancer patients find that the life-disrupting exhaustion continues ever after treatment ends.
Plus, if you undergo more than one kind of therapy — for instance, combining surgery and radiation — the resulting fatigue is usually even more severe.
So, while there are no drugs that can ease this persistent tiredness, aerobic exercise – even if it only consists of a daily walk – can lessen the fatigue as well as reduce other side effects.
Studies in Germany show that riding an exercise bike for thirty minutes five times a week, or walking about half an hour a day, not only re-energizes cancer patients, but also shrinks psychological distress, improves memory, makes for better social interactions with family and friends, increases life satisfaction and helps make lung function stronger.4
Lifting spirits by lifting weights
Moderate weight-lifting (resistance training) also helps eliminate or lessen the side effects of cancer treatment. A study in Canada showed that in men being treated for prostate cancer, working out with weights three times a week lifted their energy levels, improved their quality of life, and, as you’d expect, boosted their muscular strength.5
Research at the University of Alberta in Canada showed that, among women being treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer, resistance training two days a week lifted self-esteem and reduced tiredness as well as making the women stronger.6
The continuing research into the benefits of exercise on cancer treatment shows that if it were a drug, it would be considered a miracle drug. And it’s probably even more powerful as a strategy to prevent cancer in the first place.
A recent review study substantiates that exercise significantly reduces the risk of 13 types of cancer.7
- Esophageal adenocarcinoma by 42 percent
- Liver cancer by 27 percent
- Lung cancer by 26 percent
- Kidney cancer by 23 percent
- Gastric cardia cancer by 22 percent
- Endometrial cancer by 21 percent
- Myeloid leukemia by 20 percent
- Myeloma by 17 percent
- Colon cancer by 16 percent lower risk
- Head and neck cancer by 15 percent
- Rectal cancer by 13 percent
- Bladder cancer by 13 percent
- Breast cancer by 10 percent
All of these benefits are the reason that Karen Mustian, a researcher at the University of Rochester in New York, brags: “Our program at the University of Rochester, which now includes more than a half-dozen researchers, is becoming a real powerhouse in exercise oncology.”
It’s undeniable that research into the effects of exercise points to a powerful conclusion – at any age, exercise should be a central part of your lifestyle. It’s becoming just what the doctor (particularly the oncologist) ordered.