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Most breast cancer patients may not be getting enough exercise

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The majority of patients with breast cancer do not get recommended amounts of exercise, despite it being linked with prolonged survival, suggests a US population study.

The findings indicate that efforts to promote physical activity in breast cancer patients may need to be significantly enhanced, say the study authors in the journal Cancer.

“The results suggest women who have received a breast cancer diagnosis need better support to keep active”

Caroline Dalton

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week for general health benefits and for chronic disease prevention and management.

Brionna Hair, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, assessed pre- and post-diagnosis physical activity levels in 1,735 women, aged 20-74 years, diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

The researchers found only 35% of breast cancer survivors met current physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis.

A decrease in activity around six months after diagnosis was reported by 59% of patients.

When compared with white women, African-American women were about 40% less likely to meet national physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis.

Ms Hair said: “Strategies that may be successful in increasing physical activity among breast cancer patients need to be comprehensively evaluated and implemented.”

Caroline Dalton, senior policy officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “Physical activity after a breast cancer diagnosis has been shown to improve a patient’s chances of survival and there is also some evidence that it may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning.

“Although this study was conducted in America rather than the UK, the results suggest that women who have received a breast cancer diagnosis need better support to keep active,” she said.

“There are no specific guidelines in place at the moment to tell us precisely how much physical activity is needed after a breast cancer diagnosis, but Breakthrough Breast Cancer suggests aiming for 3.5 hours per week,” she added.

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