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Evidence-based guidelines for physios treating cancer patients and survivors

Photo: Health Times Magazine
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released a new set of guidelines which highlight the importance of exercise in combatting the effects of cancer treatment and improving survival rates.

The new guidelines follow the convention by the college of a roundtable of experts from 17 organisations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, to review the latest scientific evidence and offer recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has thrown its support behind the guidelines, acknowledging the important role physiotherapists play in ensuring that people with or recovering from cancer have access to the most appropriate exercise treatment plans.

APA chair of cancer, lymphoedema and palliative care group, Elise Gane, said she wasn’t surprised by the findings, but was pleased that evidence was mounting at a global scale.
“We’ve always known that exercise is important, but the growing evidence base for the benefits of participation in moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training for better outcomes is spurring us to find new ways to motivate and support our patients with programs that best fit their needs,” said Ms Gane.

“Physiotherapists working with patients with a cancer diagnosis are highly experienced in designing and managing tailored exercise programs.

ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, who co-chaired the roundtable, said with more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, there was a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer, and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control the disease.

“This esteemed, multidisciplinary group of leaders on the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice.”

The guidelines recommend that health professionals such as physiotherapists design and deliver bespoke exercise programs for people with or recovering from cancer to support their recovery and ability to deal with the debilitating side effects of cancer treatment.

The evidence based guidance suggests that prescribed exercise that best meets the needs, preferences and abilities of the individual will improve physical function, fatigue, anxiety, depression and quality of life of cancer sufferers.

The new ACSM guidance includes the following findings:
  • Exercise lowers the risk of seven types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, oesophagus and stomach
  • For cancer survivors, exercise improves survival after diagnosis for breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Exercise during and after cancer treatment improves quality of life
  • Recommendation includes moderate intensity aerobic training at least three times per week for a minimum 30 minutes; plus resistance training at least twice a week.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.