Women or men with hormone positive breast cancer, that is breast cancer which uses hormones to grow, are often recommended to go on hormone therapy for ten years. This has the goal to shut down the production of these hormones that are the lifeline for the cancer. Whilst it is amazing to have this treatment option, the side effects can often be quite debilitating for people and have a negative impact on quality of life.
Side effects of hormone therapy may include
- Joint pain
- Bone pain
- Muscle pain
- Weight gain
- Hot flushes
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
What can we do about these side effects?
Recent research has shown that aerobic exercise has a positive impact on the side effects mentioned above. As you exercise, your muscles move and this creates an increase in endorphins released in the body. This has been shown to have an analgesic effect on the body and also reduce joint and muscle pain. You will notice that your body will become more conditioned and therefore more efficient with daily tasks such as carrying the groceries or climbing a flight of stairs.
An increase in aerobic exercise will also help with weight loss or preventing weight gain, which can be a concern of people going on this medication. Interestingly, your expectations can also affect the level of side effects experienced.
Research found that women with negative expectations had worse side effects and a lower reported quality of life two years after commencing the medication. These patients also had a poorer adherence to their medication.
How much aerobic exercise should you be doing?
The World Health Organisation recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of high intensity (vigorous) exercise plus two muscle strengthening sessions per week. The key is to pick something that you enjoy such as cycling, swimming, hiking, aerobics or jogging and aim to get to 60-70% of your maximal heart rate, based on your age.
It is important to see a skilled cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to help guide you with your exercise. Such therapists have knowledge of the changes your body is experiencing during treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation and any surgery you may be having.
Whilst the idea of being on hormone therapy for ten years may be frustrating for some people, there are options out there to reduce the side effects and research shows that people who take the medication have a significant decreased chance of breast cancer recurrence.
To book an appointment with InnerStrength’s Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapist Luci Minogue please click here or call us on 8555 4099.
Written by Luci Minogue, Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapist