Call for cancer patients to get prescriptions for exercise

Women recovering from breast cancer should get written prescriptions for exercise as part of their treatment, according to Mater breast care nurse Ash Mondolo.

Ms Mondolo said a pilot six-week exercise program for Mater Private Hospital Brisbane breast cancer patients revealed dramatic improvements in health and wellbeing, as well as a reduction in side-effects.

“A written prescription for exercise is necessary for every recovering breast cancer patient,” Ms Mondolo said.

“Mater and Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy created a program based on the latest evidence that exercise during treatment for breast cancer lowers the chance of physical side effects like fatigue, neuropathy, lymphoedema, osteoporosis, and nausea.

“Specialised women’s health physiotherapists developed the free pilot program specifically for women recovering from breast cancer to improve mobility, strength and balance.

“The women who participated felt better and formed a new support network amongst themselves by participating.”

Active Rehabilitation oncology-trained physiotherapist Phoebe Giffard said the exercise program boosted patients’ moods and energy levels.

“Apart from ensuring patients remain physically active, it enhances psychological wellbeing and creates friendships with people who have been through a similar experience,” Ms Giffard said.

“If exercise was a pill, GPs would carry it in their back pocket.”

More than 40 Australian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day and one in every four Queensland women with the disease is treated at a Mater hospital each year.

Redland Bay mother-of-three Michelle Kostner was diagnosed with stage three invasive breast cancer after postponing her yearly routine mammogram by two months.

“My husband and I were so shocked with the results that day - I had tried to stay fit and healthy all my life,” Ms Kostner said.

“I told my sister to go and have a mammogram and she was also diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She was 43 and thought you had to be in your 50s to start having mammograms.

“We have no previous history of breast cancer in our family, but we consider ourselves very lucky to have found out when we did.”

Ms Kostner said participating in two exercise sessions a week reduced nausea, fatigue and dizziness caused by her treatment.

“It’s been amazing,” she said.

“Not only did the program help with my recovery, but it enabled me to meet a group of breast cancer survivors who have become great friends. We meet for coffee with other survivors and provide each other with support on a regular basis.”

Mater’s pilot exercise program was funded by Chicks in Pink, a support and fundraising
organisation dedicated to providing care and services to women diagnosed with breast

Mater Breast and Endocrine Surgeon Dr Chris Pyke said exercise intervention studies were also
starting to reveal an increase in survival amongst cancer patients.

“At a bio chemical level, exercise is the only intervention that has a proven ability to boost the
immune system,” he said.

“There are no downsides to exercise being a routine inclusion in cancer patients’ treatments.”

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