Physically Fit Breast Cancer Patients More Likely To Complete Chemotherapy: Study
Breast cancer patients who were in better physical condition performed more of their chemotherapy treatments, which gives doctors additional advice to personalize treatments, according to a study from the University of Alberta. and prepare patients for the road ahead.
“Clinicians often say that patients are fit for chemotherapy, but no one has ever looked at actual fitness variables to see if they influence a breast cancer patient’s ability to complete chemotherapy. Said Kerry Courneya, cancer researcher, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity. and Cancer at the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation. The study was led by Courneya’s research associate, Ki-Yong An.
“This study was the first to examine how muscle strength and aerobic capacity can influence chemotherapy treatment adherence.”
One of the most important things for breast cancer patients on the road to recovery is to finish all of their chemotherapy, Courneya explained. Yet if the side effects of drugs take too much toll, doctors will often reduce or delay treatments beyond recommended guidelines.
He noted that the general rule is that 85 percent of the scheduled chemotherapy regimen must be completed for treatment to be optimally effective.
“If it starts to go below that, the chances of the cancer coming back are higher and the chances of recovery are lower,” he said.
“The goal is to make sure that we can help patients get through these difficult chemotherapy treatments and finish as much as they can.”
Previous studies have looked at body composition, with some evidence suggesting that breast cancer patients with higher body fat or lower muscle mass may not complete their chemotherapy as much.
Courneya’s Behavioral Medicine Lab recently showed that aerobic and strength training can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and improve survival rates.
Using that same data, her team found that breast cancer patients in the highest 20 percent aerobic fitness had an 89 percent chance of completing treatment, compared with 77 percent. for less fit patients. Similar differences were seen for chest strength, with the strongest 20 percent completing treatment 82 percent versus 71 percent for the weakest 80 percent.
While these findings give doctors and patients an immediate next step in breast cancer treatment, Courneya said the tricky part of the procedure with “pre-adaptation” is that the window between diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy can be relatively short – six to 12 weeks.
And while that’s certainly enough time to make progress in fitness, Courneya said knowing a patient’s fitness level could also be helpful for doctors to formulate a plan of action. This would include everything from the chemotherapy regimen chosen to the selection of supportive care medications to prevent side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and low white blood cell counts.
“If the doctors know they have a patient with deconditioned breast cancer in front of them, then they know that the patient’s chances of completing chemotherapy are a little lower and they can choose a more appropriate chemotherapy regimen. or offer prophylactic supportive care drugs, ”he said.
“But if they have a marathon runner or a weightlifter, they know they can probably push that patient a little harder.”