Prevention, Treatment and Survival
There are many benefits of being active – weight loss, stronger muscles, increased energy, stress relief – but can exercise prevent, treat and help women deal with ovarian cancer? New studies show that exercise can cut ovarian cancer risks, boost energy during cancer treatment, and help fatigue and sleep in cancer survivors.
Exercise and Ovarian Cancer Prevention
A Canadian study in The International Journal of Cancer’s online edition, suggests that “women who participated in the highest levels of moderate-intensity exercise had a decreased risk of ovarian cancer compared to women with lower levels of moderate-intensity activity,” (Hitti, WebMD Health News). This may be because exercise can whittle away fat, especially around the waistline. Obesity is one of the causes that increases the risk of ovarian cancer. In the study, overweight and obese women benefited more than leaner women, however, women with normal BMI (body mass index) also had a lowered risk of ovarian cancer.
In another study performed at the Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System (NECSS), doctors examined over 400 women with ovarian cancer and over 2100 healthy women to study the role of physical activity and the risk of developing ovarian cancer, (Stoppler/Shiel, MedicineNet.com). The study found that women who were moderately active, and/or who held jobs that kept them active, had a reduced risk for the development of ovarian cancer when compared to non-active women. “The authors of the study note that potential alterations in hormone and growth factor levels, enhancement of the immune system, and/or the reduction in obesity associated with moderate exercise may be responsible for the effect,” (Stoppler/Shiel, MedicineNet.com). This is a significant find as it suggests that alternations in lifestyles have the potential to reduce women’s risks of developing ovarian cancer.
Exercise Beneficial During Treatment
Although doctors have been advising cancer patients to take it easy before and during treatment, many studies show that moderate physical activity can benefit cancer patients. New guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggest that cancer patients “be as physically active as possible before and during treatment,” (Laino, WebMD Health News).
Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., MPH, is the lead author of the guidelines and associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Abramson Cancer Center for the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She encourages physical activity but also to know your body’s limitations. “No one is saying you should go out and run a marathon during chemotherapy,” she says. “You know your own body, do what’s comfortable.”
During a discussion at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the ACSM panel came up with recommendations of different types of exercises that can be beneficial during and after cancer therapy. Walking was one exercise that seemed to be beneficial for the entire cancer patient population, even during treatment. But, it is important to know that not all moderate-intensity activity is for everyone and patients should still consult their doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen.
Yoga May Help Fatigue, Sleep in Cancer Survivors
A new study suggests that yoga may help cancer survivors sleep better and have more energy. The study, led by Karen Mustian of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York says, “We really don’t have any good remedies for fatigue for cancer survivors.” The fact that many patients take drugs to help them sleep led her to develop a study of 400 cancer survivors, half of which did yoga twice a week for one month while the other half were inactive. Those who did yoga were able to cut back on sleeping pills and slept better; nearly twice the improvement of survivors who didn’t do the exercises (Laino, Medicine.net).