Exercise During and After Other Breast Cancer Treatments

Exercise During and After Other Breast Cancer Treatments

It’s important to let your doctor know before you start exercising during and after radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy.
 

As always, make sure you have your doctor’s OK to start exercising during and after radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy. Let your doctor know which exercises you plan to do and ask about any possible limitations.

Precautions

Higher risk of infection: You may have a higher risk of infection during radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly after touching any shared equipment (barbells, dumbbells, and treadmills). Also make sure you check your body — especially your hands and feet — for blisters or cuts so you can put antibiotic ointment on any you find.

Compromised immune system: Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy can make your immune system work less effectively. If your white blood cell count is low (lower than 3,500 white blood cells per microliter of blood), avoid public gyms, yoga studios, and other public places until your white blood cell count is at a safe level.

Neuropathy: Some chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy medicines can cause neuropathy, the general term for numbness, pain, and tingling caused by damage to the nerves in the hands and feet (peripheral nerves). If you have neuropathy, make sure you take steps to reduce your risk of falling or injuring yourself. It can help to have a spotter or buddy with you when you exercise.

Skin irritation: Radiation therapy can cause skin irritation, and swimming in a chlorinated pool can make this irritation worse. So you may want to skip the pool until your skin heals.

Higher risk of breaking a bone: Certain hormonal therapy and chemotherapy medicines can increase your risk of breaking a bone. And if you’re receiving treatment for breast cancer that has spread to your bones, you also may have a higher risk of breaking a bone. You may have to lower the intensity and length of your workouts. You may want to talk to a certified trainer who has experience working with people diagnosed with breast cancer about how intense and how long your workouts should be.

Heart problems: If you’re being treated with a chemotherapy or targeted therapy medicine that may cause heart damage, make sure to ask your doctor or cardiologist what type of exercise modifications, if any, are right for you. It’s also a good idea to ask what the intensity should be for your workouts. Also, certain chemotherapy medicines may make your heart beat irregularly for a day or two after you receive them. So it makes sense to avoid exercising on the day you get chemotherapy and keep the intensity low for the next two days.

Dizziness or balance problems: Certain hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy medicines can make you dizzy. Make sure you take precautions so you don’t fall and hurt yourself. You may want to wear sturdy athletic shoes, work out on a cushioned mat, and have a spotter or partner with you when you work out.

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

Reviewed by 1 medical adviser
 
Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH
Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA
Learn more about our advisory board

— Last updated on August 23, 2022, 7:49 PM

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