A report states that cancer patients need a personalized workout prescription to protect their heart regardless of their treatment type.
“Cancer patients are often less active than adults without cancer,” said author DrFlavioD’Ascenzi, University of Siena, Italy. “However, exercise is essential for patients diagnosed with cancer who are under treatment, irrespective of the type of treatment.”
“Endurance training is more effective for improving cardiovascular performance and reducing inflammation, but resistance training may be a better starting point for frail cancer patients,” explained DrFlavioD’Ascenzi. “Other types of exercise, such as inspiratory muscle training, are safe and effective, particularly in those with thoracic cancer; therefore, the specific exercise should be chosen based on individual characteristics,” he continued.
Cardiovascular diseases are common side effects in patients with cancer. This is the result of heart toxicity, where heart function and structure are affected by cancer treatment, or increased growth of cardiovascular disease, particularly when risk factors such as high blood pressure are present.
Nevertheless, cardiovascular diseases and cancer also share the same risk factors. It is therefore advised that cancer patients eat healthily, quit smoking, control their weight, and exercise. The study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology highlighted the importance of a personalized exercise plan for each patient, taking into account personal history, cancer treatment, exercise response, and personal preferences.
Activity is important when medication such as chemotherapy is started. A multidisciplinary team should be involved in the creation of an exercise plan, comprising oncologists, cardiologists, physical therapists, doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists.
The starting point for cardiac evaluation is exercise testing to determine the response to exercise (and particularly cardiopulmonary exercise testing or lactate testing). The proper amount of exercise (as usually done for a drug) can then be administered including duration, type of training, and amount of training (hours / minutes of training per week).
“Defining the intensity and volume of exercise is important for maximising the benefits of physical activity while avoiding muscular soreness, fatigue, and sleep disorders,” said DrD’Ascenzi.
Continuous therapy is not a contraindication for exercise, but patients are advised to contact their doctor before starting a new practice. Clear advice is provided: for example, patients with low levels of haemoglobin must avoid activities of high intensity; those with low levels of platelets (needed for blood clotting) should not touch sports.
Activities that may raise the risk of fracture should be avoided in vulnerable patients. There is a need to examine breathlessness and exhaustion, but exercise may help deal with fatigue, which is relatively common in cancer patients, minimizing associated health problems.