- Question from Jewel: How do you ever get over the fear that your cancer is still there and will show up in some other part of your body? How can you have a good quality of life again?
- Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. As you move past treatment and are wrestling with this fear, it's important to identify ways that you can take care of yourself.
- Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. One good way to take care of yourself and improve your quality of life is to exercise. There have been several clinical trials showing that cancer survivors have an improved quality of life, decreased fatigue, and improved fitness in as little as 12 weeks of following an exercise program. This typically means doing some kind of aerobic activity at least three times a week.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. How much exercise each day?
- Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. The studies have shown that about 30-45 minutes each day is needed.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. How can a woman get started on an exercise program when parts of her body hurt, ache, or are in some way uncomfortable?
- Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. Many women are quite fatigued after breast cancer treatment. They are less fit than they were before diagnosis, and they're not exercising as much as they were before diagnosis. Because of this, they need to start their exercise program at a slower rate than they would otherwise. That means starting with about 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, three days a week, and adding five minutes each day or so over a one or two-week period.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. What should a woman do if her arm and armpit hurt, and what should she do if her range of motion is limited on one side?
- Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. If you have arm problems following surgery, the first thing to do is get evaluated by your surgeon or a physical therapist to see what your capabilities and limitations are, and then to develop a program with the help of a physical therapist. If you don't have access to a physical therapist, consider trying some of the exercises in our book Breast Fitness: An Optimal Exercise and Health Plan for Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer, or any other book written about exercise for breast cancer survivors.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. If a woman follows this program of exercising for 30-45 minutes, three days a week, and if she eats the same amount of food, how much weight might she be able to lose over a 12-week time period?
- Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. She won't lose much weight from exercise alone, but she will experience an improved quality of life and feel less fatigued. For weight loss, people need to do considerably more exercise and reduce their calorie intake. Some researchers have found that an hour a day of exercise—and reducing calories—is optimal for weight loss.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Taking Care of Yourself featured Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about exercise and nutrition, and other things you can do to nurture your body, along with strategies for finding emotional support, boosting your mood, and feeling good again.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in May 2003.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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