5 Things to Know About Breast Cancer and Exercise

The number of people being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and ductal breast carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is on the rise. More than three million individuals have survived breast cancer. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women other than skin cancer.

Due to the ramifications of treatment, exercise is a modality that can be used to facilitate recovery, return to function, and ongoing prevention. Numerous studies have demonstrated that exercise can improve quality of life, reduce side effects of treatment, and improve strength and endurance. However, it is essential that health-fitness professionals understand the various treatments that survivors undergo to provide safe and effective exercise programs. It is important to understand where in the recovery continuum the fitness professional can start with exercise programming minimizing risk of potential exercise side effects and complications.

Following are 5 things to know about exercise for clients with breast cancer. It is important to understand how to safely and effectively work with the client through recovery, through treatment (chemotherapy and radiation), and then into the prevention and survival phase. Specialized continuing education will qualify you to work with this growing group of clients who can greatly benefit from the care and expertise of a trained exercise professional.

  1. There are two types of local treatments for breast cancer: surgery and radiation. Surgery can be radical (involving breast tissue, and surrounding nerves and muscles) or relatively non-invasive (such as lumpectomy), but typically involves the lymphatic system with removal of lymph nodes. Knowledge of treatment is important for exercise for recovery.
  2. Systemic treatments include chemotherapy and hormonal treatments (typically via medication) which affect all systems in the body, not just the surrounding tissue. Exercise can help with the side effects of systemic treatment, but must be adjusted or suspended for certain signs and symptoms which may require referral back to the health care provider.
  3. One of the primary goals for breast cancer recovery should be to restore range of motion to the chest and shoulder including flexion, abduction, and internal/external rotation. The muscles most affected are the pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and the rotator cuff. Typically a client will work with a therapist initially to re-establish range of motion, and then can be referred to a fitness professional who will work with the client to retain range of motion and improve strength.
  4. If your client has lymphedema or is at risk for lymphedema, research indicates that order of exercises is important. Use a proximal to distal exercise sequence designed to encourage lymphatic flow in alternative pathways. Muscles are contracted in the abdomen, chest, and shoulders and then the arm to reduce fluid in the arm.
  5. It is important to have physician’s clearance before starting an exercise program with someone who is recovering from or has a history of breast cancer. In recovery, it is good to make contact with the therapist that is on the health care team to work together for the client in the continuum of care.

FLS/NAFC offers a Breast Cancer Recovery and Prevention Specialist Certificate Program for 12 hours (1.2 CECs) of specialized continuing education. Expand your knowledge and specialize in order to expand your expertise and income.
You can also purchase the continuing education courses independent of the Specialist Certification.
Essential Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors (.2 CECs)
Breast Cancer Recovery: On Land and In Water (.4 CECs)
Return to Life: Breast Cancer Recovery using Pilates (.6 CECs)

USE CODE BC2020 at checkout through December to receive 25% off individual Courses or the Certification.

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