Exercise May Work Better Than Medicines to Treat Fatigue in Cancer Patients

NDTV Food  |  Updated: March 03, 2017 15:44 IST

Exercise May Work Better Than Medicines to Treat Fatigue in Cancer Patients
The benefits of physical activities are enormous for our health and well-being. This is no hidden secret. Exercise is essential because it helps in blood circulation, regulates blood sugar levels and cholesterol, keeps the heart healthy, makes the skin glow, stimulates metabolism and digestion, so on and so forth. No wonder then health experts consistently remind us to partake in physical activities to stay in the best of health. However, the times we lead today, exercising or even walking takes a backseat. We hardly dedicate time for physical activities and as such get more and more tangled in the clutches of sedentary lifestyle.

Physical activities are vital for most patients as well, to speed up the treatment or ease discomfort associated with respective diseases. According to a new research by University of Rochester in New York, engaging in exercises and/or psychological therapies may work better than medications for patients suffering from cancer-related fatigue. So recommending yoga, walking, running or cycling could prove to be beneficial to the patients.

Fatigue in cancer patients is the most common side effect caused by treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and some biologic therapies. This type of fatigue is different from being chronically tired. It's a crushing sensation that's not relieved by rest or sleep, and can persist for months or years.


"If a cancer patient is having trouble with fatigue, rather than looking for extra cups of coffee, a nap, or a pharmaceutical solution, consider a 15-minute walk," said lead author Karen Mustian, Associate Professor at the University.


The findings showed that exercise alone - whether aerobic or anaerobic - reduced cancer-related fatigue most significantly. Psychological interventions, such as therapy designed to provide education, change personal behaviour and adapt the way a person thinks about his or her circumstances, also helped in reducing fatigue.

Importantly, drugs tested for treating cancer-related fatigue -- including stimulants like modafinil, which can be used for narcolepsy, and Ritalin, which treats ADHD -- were not found as effective.

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"The study bears out that these drugs don't work very well although they are continually prescribed. So any time you can subtract a pharmaceutical from the picture it usually benefits patients," said Mustian.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, the team analysed the outcomes of 113 unique studies, involving more than 11,000 patients. According to researchers, the cancer-related fatigue might be the result of a chronic state of inflammation induced by the disease or its treatment. Most concerning is that fatigue can decrease a patient's chances of survival because it lessens the likelihood of completing medical treatments, said Mustian.

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