October is #BreastCancerAwareness Month. In recognition of the importance of fighting against the silent killer, each week GladiatHers® will be bringing you content designed to educate you about the disease and those who battle against it everyday. Today we’re talking about fitness and breast cancer. How does it impact the disease itself and those fighting against it?
Studies show that maintaining a lifestyle with regular exercise and healthy eating is linked to a reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week and that adults maintain a balanced diet and keeping weight to healthy levels to decrease chances of breast cancer.
Genetics also plays a factor in breast cancer risks. Studies suggest that genetic fitness may play a role in the risk of breast cancer with individuals who are naturally more fit than others (physically fit aside from exercise) having a lower risk for breast cancer. Conversely, 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary with most of inherited breast cancer being caused by genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
This information all suggests that prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer being proactive about 1) maintaining a healthy lifestyle and 2) learning about one’s genetic health could lead to prevention or early detection of the disease.
While discussions frequently highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid breast cancer, the general public isn’t generally made aware of the advice regarding fitness that physicians give to patients currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Although the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery frequently prescribed for breast cancer can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining, many physicians recommend maintaining or developing a lifestyle that includes physical activity while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Research suggests that physical activity can improve how the patient feels and how the patient’s body functions. Patients should notify their physicians about their physical activity so that physicians can ensure that patients engage in exercise in a helpful not harmful manner.
Unfortunately, life post breast cancer treatment can be filled with noticeable reductions in physical fitness, negative changes in body composition, increased fatigue, depression, and anxiety (among other side effects). Research has shown that exercise can combat these symptoms. Research also suggests that incorporating a healthy diet and healthy amount of exercise can decrease the probability of the breast cancer returning.
While studies reveal that no amount of healthy eating and exercise can guarantee a breast cancer free life, it is encouraging to know that we are not helpless in the fight against the disease. If you are not living a healthy lifestyle, we encourage you to start taking steps to do so. Perhaps your waistline and your breasts will thank you.