Exercise and Lung Cancer

With the end of the year fast approaching the month of “Movember” is upon us once again. For those unaware “Movember” is an initiative where guys grow moustaches (some very unsuccessfully) to spread awareness of men’s related health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer. Following that theme I wanted to write an article based around Lung cancer and how exercise and physical activity can benefit those with this condition.

Some quick stats first; Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. It is responsible for almost one in five cancer deaths in Australia.

In 2013, 11,174 new cases of lung cancer (including small cell and non-small cell lung cancers) were diagnosed in Australia. This accounts for close to 9% of all cancers diagnosed. The risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer in Australia by age 85 is 1 in 13 for men and 1 in 22 for women.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for around 80% of cases. There are sub-types of non-small cell lung cancer. The most common are:

  • Adenocarcinoma – begin in mucus-producing cells and makes up about 40% of lung cancers. While this type of lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in current or former smokers, it is also the most common lung cancer in non-smokers.
  • Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma– commonly develops in the larger airways of the lung.
  • Large cell undifferentiated carcinoma– can appear in any part of the lung and are not clearly squamous cell or adenocarcinoma.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) usually begins in the middle of the lungs and spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer. It accounts for between 15 and 20% of lung cancers.

Benefits of Exercise

The benefits of exercise in general are very well documented but for lung cancer specifically its benefit lies with improving cancer-related symptoms and quality of life. Not only can it improve symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath but it helps by increasing strength, endurance and decreasing emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. The main role of physical activity is to help tolerate cancer treatments and lower fatigue levels.

An appropriate exercise program can help with coping strategies with regards to the physical and emotional effects of having lung cancer. In addition, a preoperative exercise program prior to lung surgery should also be considered as there is developing evidence that it may improve outcomes.

It may also decrease the risk of further disease. Being physically active appears to improve survival and quality of life. Patients who exercise during treatment and those who began to exercise afterwards report an increase in quality of life.

Many lung cancer patients experience shortness of breath and have difficulty breathing, which can prevent them from undertaking exercise and cause them to be sedentary. Restoring normal breathing helps with endurance and quality of life and will enable people with lung cancer to complete daily activities with greater ease.

At Optimum Health Solutions we utilise the specialised “PowerBreathe” inspiratory muscle trainers which help to improve symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue and help build the strength of the diaphragm. This along with an individualised program developed by our expert practitioners are what you can expect this November at any of our studios.

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