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Could Emotional Patterns Make Us More Susceptible To Cancer?

There is a lot of research, clinical data and statistics related to cancer – types, causes, and treatments – available to anyone interested in looking them up. There are, of course, the usual suspects /causes of cancer (more on that later). But there could be a case made out to look beyond the obvious. Scratch deeply and look below the surface. There is another omnipresent trigger we lug around and don’t give this Machiavellian it’s due. It coexists as both cause and effect, feeds off us, is often suppressed, and is usually the last to be addressed, if at all.

‘Unaddressed and unresolved emotions’.

The source of these could be singular, or more likely, multiple. Cracking or crumbling relationships, pressures of work (often tied up with a sense of ‘worth’ & ‘success’), irritants at home (from the mundane to the serious), overwhelming sense of responsibilities as a spouse, parent, child, maintaining a lifestyle, etc. come to mind easily. This tangle slowly and silently claws away at body, mind and soul. Some may immediately label it ‘Stress’. But this emotional web can manifest in other physio-psychological avatars too. It is silent and deadly. It attacks all systems- skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, etc. All organ systems on one hand, and cognitive and emotional on the other, interfering with and impairing our quality of living and coping abilities. While one needs to clearly distinguish and recognize medical reasons for what they are, the truth is, this silent trigger is omnipotent. Abstract though it may seem, emotions wield the power to mess with our tangible systems. They have the capability of producing unwanted, negative, and damaging results in the human body. Sometimes, drastically so.

SHOULD WE BE LOOKING MORE SERIOUSLY AT OUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH IN OUR BATTLE AGAINST CANCER?

A long, relaxed conversation with a cancer survivor friend brought this aspect to the fore yet again. He has overcome cancer twice and tried all treatments – mainstream and alternate, including adopting a complete lifestyle change which most of us can only aspire to. But there remains an unaddressed issue. After years spent on this journey of cancer, getting on and off track, he calmly mentioned this point in relation to his experience of it. It was interesting to hear him analyze his own life experiences. Aware of what’s impacting him (acknowledging the source of his emotional drain), he recognizes the need let it go, and admits that he hasn’t been able to yet. Driven by his emotional moorings, he hasn’t been able to sever this source of recurring negativity in his life despite nudging by family, friends, healers and a few doctors.

He further went on to calmly say that till such time as he lets go, he is not fighting the root causes of cancer completely. (I say ’causes’ so as not to make an oversimplified case of cancer triggers, especially in relation to emotional health, nor is it my intention to present this as a thought in conflict with medical advice or challenge it.) He intends to seriously weigh the worthiness of continuing with this emotional baggage and its impact on his body.

DOES THIS MATTER?

He isn’t the first person – or the last – to have mentioned this connection. There is something more than pure abstraction at play here. And it’s worth acknowledging the elephant in the room. We are, after all, feeding it and it is rolling its weight all over us. Emotions impact us and negative emotions more so. Our bodies respond in myriad ways trying to combat it. Labored breathing, racing/irregular heart beat (cardiovascular), tight muscles (muscular), tingling in fingers/toes (neural), aches and pains (skeletal and muscular), compromised digestion, high/low blood pressure (other body systems)… these are just some common perceptible symptoms and responses to our altered emotional states. We have all experienced them to varying degrees and at different points in our lives. Not to mention what happens to our (emotional) responses and thought process.
It becomes a cause of concern when this altered state continues for a longer period of time. The body appears to adapt and these symptoms become silent and internal in nature. The impact, meanwhile, continues on a wider, cellular level, and various manifestations of this silent aggressor may emerge over a period of time, including possibly, as cancer.

SHOULD WE EMPOWER OURSELVES BETTER?

Does it mean all cancers are somehow the result of negative emotions or negative emotions will always lead to cancer? There is no definite, categorical ‘Yes’ as an answer. But, it could prove helpful investigating and addressing how our underlying emotive states may be leaving us exposed to greater possibility of serious health conditions, including cancer, along with all other clinical causes. As a precautionary tool, I reckon paying attention to emotional health plays a rather important role. We know that a healthy and fit lifestyle has so many advantages in serving as prevention for many health conditions. ‘Fitness’ needs to encompass emotional and mental health (strength and fortitude) too, by constantly sieving out the negative and enhancing the positive. It requires acknowledgement and working upon, with a conscious approach. As a cancer coping mechanism, focusing on positive emotional health and reducing negative (draining/sapping/unhappy/stressful/fearful) emotions plays a powerful role.

Emotions have the power to alter the human state at the conscious and subconscious levels. They can be an ally or a foe in our battle against ill health. They have the ability to align internal systems/processes to either facilitate or hinder external efforts.

So while one may refrain from an outright ‘yes’ to the question raised above, one cannot say an outright ‘no’ either. As science discovers deeper working of the human ecosystem, it is increasingly revealing the intertwining of our emotive state with our physical one.

Humans are emotional beings.

We cannot challenge it nor ignore the fabric that differentiates us. When one goes against the basic grain it creates friction. Prioritizing striving for a residual state of positive emotional health needs a deliberate plan and push. It is not easy. But neither is cancer nor its treatment. Using different techniques to spot and train our emotions, create emotional alchemy, makes sense now more than ever before, with different types of cancers spiraling and affecting all age groups, sometimes with the known triggers missing.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” –C. G. Jung

Originally printed on bodyinmotion.in. Reprinted with permission.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

** If interested in further research on the topic you may read up related links including:

Portrait of smiling women wearing pink for breast cancer in parkland

Training Cancer Survivors

Once a virtual death sentence, cancer today is a curable disease for many and a chronic illness for most. With continued advances in strategies to detect cancer early and treat it effectively along with the aging of the population, the number of individuals living years beyond a cancer diagnosis can be expected to continue to increase.

Approximately 15.5 million Americans in the United States are cancer survivors. By 2026 that number is expected to reach 20 million. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life is considered a cancer survivor.  And while not all cancer survivors are older adults, many are simply because of the cumulative effect of years of lifestyle issues that are risk factors for their disease. Survivors less than or equal to 19 years old comprise 1% of the cancer survivor population, 6% of survivors are aged 20–39 years, 33% are aged 40–64 years and 60% (more than half) are aged greater than or equal to 65 years.

Breast cancer survivors are the largest constituent group within the overall population of cancer survivors (22%), followed by prostate cancer survivors (19%) and colorectal cancer survivors (11%) (3). Gynecological and other genitourinary cancers each account for 9% of cancer survivors, followed by hematological cancers and lymphoma (7%) and lung cancer (4%). Other cancer sites account for much smaller percentages and together are responsible for 19% of the total number of survivors. In terms of stratification by gender, more than two thirds (69%) of all female cancer survivors have a history of breast (41%), gynecological (17%) or colorectal (11%) cancer. For male survivors, two thirds (66%) have a history of prostate (39%), other genitourinary (such as testicular or renal) (14%) or colorectal (13%) cancer.

Not surprisingly, cancer survivors are often highly motivated to learn more about things like nutrition, supplements and herbal remedies, and exercise that might improve treatment outcomes and ultimately their survival and quality of life. For many of the most important nutrition and physical activity questions faced by cancer survivors, the scientific evidence comes only from observational and laboratory animal data, or unreliable reports from poorly designed clinical studies. Moreover, the findings from these studies are often contradictory. Very few controlled clinical trials have been done to test the impact of diet, nutritional supplements or nutritional complementary methods on cancer outcomes among cancer survivors.

In an effort to identify and evaluate the scientific evidence related to optimal nutrition and physical activity after the diagnosis of cancer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) convened a group of experts in nutrition, physical activity and cancer. The findings of this group guide healthcare providers, cancer survivors and their families through the mass of information and help them make informed choices related to diet and exercise.  The Expert Committee reviewed all of the scientific evidence and best clinical practices for different types of cancer and “graded” both the quality and certainty of the scientific evidence for factors affecting the most common cancers. As was already mentioned, there are few clear answers to many questions, a wide range of sources and often conflicting information. But, these experts agree that even when the scientific evidence is incomplete, reasonable conclusions can be made that can help to guide choices in the areas of nutrition and physical activity.

Physical activity may help cancer patients build up their physical condition; decrease the number of comorbid conditions (like heart disease and diabetes); reduce drug interactions; help cancer patients cope with treatment; restore good health; improve quality of life during and after treatment; and help cancer patients and survivors maintain independence as long as possible

Physical rehabilitation programs similar to those for cardiac rehabilitation may be effective in managing, controlling or preventing adverse medical and psychosocial outcomes manifested during cancer survivorship. For example, exercise programs are being developed as interventions to improve the physical functioning of persons who have problems with mobility as a result of therapy and are also being shown to be efficacious for weight control after breast cancer treatment, lessen the effects of chronic fatigue, improve quality of life, prevent or control osteoporosis as a result of premature menopause and prevent or control future or concurrent comorbidities.

Diet, weight and physical activity interventions carry tremendous potential to affect length and quality of survival in a positive manner and prevent or control morbidity associated with cancer or its treatment.

General Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

In general, physical activity is likely to be beneficial for most cancer survivors. Recommendations on the type, frequency, duration and intensity of exercise should be individualized to the survivor’s age, previous fitness activities, type of cancer, stage of treatment, type of therapy, and comorbid conditions.

Particular issues for cancer survivors may affect or contraindicate their ability to exercise. Effects of their cancer treatment may also promote the risk for exercise-related injuries and other adverse effects.

The following specific precautions are from the American Cancer Society:

  • Survivors with severe anemia should delay exercise, other than activities of daily living, until the anemia is improved.
  • Survivors with compromised immune function should avoid public gyms and other public places until their white blood cell counts return to safe levels.
  • Survivors who have completed a bone marrow transplant are usually advised to avoid exposure to public places with risk for microbial contamination, such as gyms, for 1 year after transplantation.
  • Survivors suffering from severe fatigue from their therapy may not feel up to an exercise program, so they may be encouraged to do 10 minutes of stretching exercises daily.
  • Survivors undergoing radiation should avoid chlorine exposure to irradiated skin (e.g., swimming pools and whirlpools).
  • Survivors with indwelling catheters should avoid water or other microbial exposures that may result in infections, as well as resistance training of muscles in the area of the catheter to avoid dislodgment.
  • Survivors with significant peripheral neuropathies may have a reduced ability to perform exercises that use the affected limbs because of weakness or loss of balance. They may do better with a stationary reclining bicycle, for example, than walking outdoors.

For the general population, the ACS and other health organizations recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days per week to reduce the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These levels of activity have not been studied or tested specifically in cancer survivors, however. For the general population and for cancer survivors, any movement is likely beneficial. Therefore, although daily and regular activity may be preferred and may be a goal, any steps that are taken to move from a sedentary to an active lifestyle should be encouraged. For survivors wanting maximum benefit, the message should be that the health benefits of exercise are generally linear, with benefit related to higher intensity and duration, although extremely high levels of exercise might increase the risk for infections.


Tammy Petersen, MSE, is the Founder and Managing Partner for the American Academy of Health and Fitness (AAHF). She’s written a book on older adult fitness and designed corresponding training programs. SrFit Mature Adult Specialty Certification is used nationwide as the textbook for a college based course for personal trainers who wish to work with mature adults. SrFit is also the basis for a specialty certification home study course that qualifies for up to 22 hours of continuing education credit with the major personal trainer certification organizations.

Essential oil made from medicinal cannabis

An Introduction to Cannabis’s Role as an Emerging Therapeutic Agent

With cannabis becoming increasingly mainstream in modern culture, its population is becoming aware of its use for a number of purported medical reasons ranging from skin ailments to digestive issues and pain. California has recently allowed its recreational use. Today, the industry is still nascent with a market of ill-vetted products with equally nascent scientific claims. However, cannabis may be unique in its application to holistic care as mediated by the endocannabinoid system and thus it is prudent to know what is useful and what isn’t.

The history of cannabis use is ancient and has resulted in many breeds of cannabis which differ in the phytocannabinoid content, ratio and terpene profile. Cannabinoids are molecules that act on cannabinoid receptors that comprise the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system modulates the psychological stress, emotionality and inflammation responses. CB1 and CB2 are examples of receptors within this system whose span is diverse, for example, they are found in the brain, gut and persist in osteoarthritic cartilage despite degradation grade. Interaction with these receptors can occur through phytocannabinoids; each of which has differing effects. To complicate matters, phytocannabinoids influence the effects of one another. Furthermore, the method of delivery also influences the effects; for example, ingestion allows the liver time to process phytocannabinoids into its derivatives which have their own effects.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two well-known examples of phytocannabinoids. THC has claims to work as an analgesic, antiemetic and antispastic; although, adverse effects include paranoia, lethargy, and tachycardia. THC can also induce euphoria which may play a role in how the analgesic properties work. CBD has claims to work as an anti-inflammatory, antiepileptic and works to block the binding of THC to CB1 and CB2 receptors. The interplay that cannabinoids have on one another has led to the notion of the “entourage effect.” (The idea that cannabis plant as a whole has curative effects.) Pharmacologically speaking, only a combination of THC and CBD, in a 1:1 formulation, manufactured by G.W. Pharmaceuticals has been vetted for its medical claims.

From oils and tinctures to hash and kush, the recreational market has driven into existence a myriad of products with a myriad of claims akin to the early days of the dietary supplement market. Assuming the source comes from one that complies with the current regulation, medical cannabis falls into three categories: plant, processed and formulations. Plant products refer to cannabis products in which the cannabinoids have not been altered and removed from the cannabis plant. These products use no heat or chemicals in their preparation and include: buds, keef, hash.

Processed products apply heat or chemicals to the cannabis plant in order to remove desired terpenes and cannabinoids. Processed products include oils, tinctures, e-juice, etc. and can be assumed to contain a higher percentage of cannabinoids in natural and unnatural ratios. Formulations are processed products whose consistency in manufacturing and medical claims have been vetted by the FDA. Formulations include products like Sativex and Epidiolex. Of course, marketing practices blurs the usage of terms; therefore, it is incumbent of the self to understand the product.


Jakub Pritz, Ph.D. has been working in the cannabis industry since 2015 as a separation operator and consultant for the production of recreational cannabis oils and other cannabis-related products.  He can attest to current cannabis production methods and what the person should be aware of.  His interest is to create botanical extracts of cannabis to be delivered in differing modalities depending on the effects sought and data affirmation.  For example dosage control in inhalation for acute pain relief, transdermal applications for arthritic pain and oral methods for digestive symptoms.  Patrons should be aware of the euphoric effects of THC and the interactions cannabinoids have with one another in varying ratios.   

Prior to this, Jakub held a post-doctoral position at UCSD’s Moore’s Cancer Center where he was in charge of data management and accruing international radiation oncology centers to join the International Evaluation of Radiotherapy Technology Effectiveness in Cervical Cancer (INTERTECC).  This trial required the coordination of several centers to follow strict data collection standards, quality checking of the institution capabilities and implementation of plan protocol.  He received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics (concentration in Medical Physics) from the University of South Florida in 2011.

As an athlete, Jakub competed in the Patriot League as a swimmer, setting records along the way.  During his graduate school years at the University of South Florida, he participated in, coached and competed with their water polo club.

young attractive doctor and patient

Nutrition for Cancer

Prepare for Treatment

Did you know that by adjusting your nutrition you can feel better and stay stronger during cancer treatment? Both the cancer and the cancer treatment can affect your appetite, your ability to tolerate foods, and your body’s ability to utilize nutrients. By having a dietitian or nutritionist on your treatment team, you’ll be better prepared to cope with side effects and meet your nutrition needs during this difficult time.

Weight Management

young attractive doctor and patientSome cancer treatments can lead to weight loss while others can lead to weight gain. Weight loss may be due to a loss of appetite and/or an inability to tolerate food, while weight gain may be related to fluid retention, increased appetite and/or decreased physical activity. If cancer treatment is making it difficult for you to manage your weight, ask an dietitian or nutritionist to join your treatment team. You won’t regret it!

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Many herbs and other supplements are marketed to people who are going through cancer treatment. Always talk to your oncologist before adding any herbs or supplements to your treatment regimen. Some herbs and supplements can cause harmful side effects and interfere with proven cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation.

For a detailed description of herbs and supplements and any evidence supporting their effectiveness and safety, visit nccam.nih.gov/health/atoz.htm. Your oncologist and a dietitian/nutritionist can help you sort through this information and make an informed decision about whether or not take any herbs or other supplements.


Kristy Richardson is a dietitian and exercise physiologist, specializing in sports nutrition and weight management, She is the founder of OC Nutrition and also works as a nutrition professor at Fullerton College.

References

American Cancer Society (2012). Nutrition for the Person with Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families. Retrieved November 4, 2013, http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002903-pdf.pdf.

jack-article1

How To Overcome Stress When Diagnosed With Cancer

“CANCER”. For those who are not diagnosed with this condition, just saying the word out loud to yourself highlights many negative connotations associated with it.

Depression. Anxiety. Loneliness. Weakness.

jack-article1We all consider the undesirable aspects associated with cancer and think to ourselves how lucky we are not to have that added stress in our life. But what about those who are diagnosed with cancer?

Life can already be quite overwhelming when considering the financial strains, family events and various appointments scheduled into each day. But then add cancer into the mix and what do you get? You get a situation that can be very debilitating both physically, socially and emotionally, and can cause an array of adverse behaviours such as excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary behaviour and smoking. There is some evidence to suggest that elevated stress levels heighten the inflammatory response associated with stress hormones which may be directly related to cancer development and growth, however, there is an abundance of research showing an in-direct link between stress and cancer growth due to the adverse behaviours mentioned above. Thus, having the ability to conquer stress, identify the best way for you to deal with stress, and to become resilient to it will positively impact the management of your cancer and the fighting process.

So we know that stress and anxiety are typically elevated in people with cancer, and we know through available research that we need to lower or eliminate these stress levels to stop risky adverse behaviours associated with stress, but how do we go about doing that?

Recently at our training studio we began an exercise program for clients diagnosed with cancer called Lift For Life.  Our trainers discussed the idea of stress and anxiety with our cancer clients and what that means to them. During our discussion we identified many situations which cause stress in their lives, both related and not related to cancer. Some of these situations were:

  • Family
  • Work
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling as though they have no one to talk to
  • Cancer Doctor appointments and the negative connotations associated with them
  • Waiting for results
  • Feeling as though people are sick of them talking about their cancer
  • Finances

After identifying what causes heightened stress levels, we brainstormed ideas we could implement to help overcome such stresses:

  • Joining cancer education groups and classes
  • Counselling
  • Communication with family and friends
  • Joining stress management, meditation or relaxation classes
  • Download stress relief applications

We recognize that stress factors in to a large degree. In the treatment of this deadly disease, and while we see the need for exercise and nutrition, there must also be a focus on improving the lifestyle habits and the personal ability of the person to be mentally healthy as well. Far too many programs focus on just the physical component or treat the physical symptoms, neglecting the importance of addressing the psychological and emotional needs to assist the body in healing itself. This is why our program is designed around exercise and education. There is an abundance of research illustrating the physical, health and emotional benefits of exercise for those suffering and over-coming cancer. Cancer brings with it atrophy, osteopenia, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and falling. The benefits of exercise and stress reduction can help alleviate many of these ancillary negative conditions associated with cancer. Some of these benefits include:

  • Regulation of blood flow (reducing your risk of blood clots)
  • Improved muscular and bone strength/health
  • Reduced risk of falling
  • Improvement and maintaining of functional capacity and independence
  • Reduced risk of secondary cardiovascular diseases and co-morbidities associated with cancer
  • Improved mental status
  • Improved quality of life.

After the Lift For Life brainstorming session I had with my cancer clients I was surprised to find that no one had identified what I perceived as being the most important elements in overcoming stress and anxiety. Exercise and rhythmic breathing. Of course once I mentioned this, all clients agreed that these were both extremely important.

jack-article2

It is at this point you may be thinking “yes I know about the importance of exercise and the benefits associated both physically and mentally, but what has breathing got to do with it?”

Why is breathing so important?

When I think of someone being stressed or anxious, I picture someone hyperventilating into a brown paper back and trying to slow down their breathing. Most people who are stressed are stuck in a constant state of over breathing and hyperventilation. Often when people are stressed they are told to “take a deep breath and relax”. This is, however, quite problematic as this action reinforces anxiety and stress symptoms by overstimulating the sympathetic nervous system, and eventually causes habitual over breathing actions. Even when the stress is no longer present, a person will continue to breathe this way as this is how they have taught themselves to breath. Dr James Mercola (of the Game Changer) emphasizes this further when he stated “When you feel tense and anxious, the sympathetic fight-or-flight aspect of your nervous system turns on, quickening your breathing and increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone production. Uncontrolled, rapid, chest-oriented respiration can actually initiate your sympathetic nervous system — even if no other stress factors are present — locking you into a state of breathing-induced stress”. Hence, learning how to breathe slowly and softly through the nose is critical.

What can I do to start breathing better and help reduce my stress and anxiety?

There are many breathing exercises which can help to reduce stress levels, improve your health and calm your body. A simple breathing exercise which can be done anywhere and has been reported to help reduce stress and anxiety symptoms is as follows:

  • Inhale through your nose for 5 seconds
  • Hold for 5 seconds
  • Exhale through your nose for 5 seconds
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Once completed make sure you continue to breath normally through your nose and not your mouth otherwise you won’t be able to crack this over breathing habit you have taught yourself.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique taught by Dr Andrew Weil is also quite effective in reducing stress levels and regulating your breathing.

Conclusion

We must acknowledge the damage that stress can cause on our health and when we are already in a state of poor health, a little bit more than normal is enough to create more problems. Stress cannot be avoided for it is something we will all encounter at many times in our lives.  However, being stuck in an extended state of stress will do serious damage to your body. Learning different strategies and having tools and resources to combat the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety are essential in the prevention and treatment of cancer as well as all kinds of other health problems and diseases.

References:
http://www.mercola.com/
http://www.cdc.gov/

Cancer Council Australia


Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training a Rehabilitation & Sports Training Studio located in Melbourne Australia. Having worked as a Trainer for over 10 years and has qualifications as a CHEK Exercise Coach, CHEK Golf Performance Specialist & Master Rehab Trainer and Twist Conditioning Sports Conditioning coach he specializes in working with rehabilitation and injury prevention programs. You can check out his website at www.noregretspt.com.au

mid age man exercising at the beach

Exercise and Prostate Cancer

The rising rate of prostate cancer necessitates developing better methods to prevent and treat prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men, according to the American Cancer Society. The country’s 3.3 million prostate cancer survivors account for 21 percent of all cancer survivors.

There are many reasons why a cancer patient should stay as active as possible through cancer treatment and recovery. I will begin by pointing out a few studies that show how exercise can benefit cancer patients.  These studies demonstrate how exercise can reduce certain side effects from treatment, increase energy, decrease stress, and improve quality of life. In the last article of this series, I will suggest ways to develop an exercise program that is based on an individual’s needs and is safe and effective.

There is evidence to support the use of exercise in prostate treatment. Exercise plays a role in the all around improved physical and mental health and therefore should be considered in the treatment plan. We know that exercise can decrease recurrence for some cancers and the role it plays in weight control, which is correlated with some cancers. For prostate cancer specifically, data indicates that obesity increases the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, and thus mortality. Men receiving androgen deprivation therapy are at higher risk for depression. Exercise reduces depression.

Studies do have their limitations.  Some use self-reported data about lifestyle and exercise. Moreover, there may be a low number of minority participants who may often have higher cancer rates. The following are a few of the published studies, which confirm that exercise should be included in the treatment plan for prostate cancer patients.

Studies have suggested that patients with high levels of physical activity had a lower rate of disease progression and also reduced mortality from prostate cancer. Ying Wang, PhD, a senior epidemiologist in the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data on 10,067 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer between 1992 and 2011.  Men with prostate cancer, which hasn’t spread may have longer survival the more they exercise.  A study demonstrated that men who were the most physically active had a 34% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer when compared with men who were the least physically active. Men who either maintained or increased their exercise level also benefited. Prostate cancer patients who kept up a moderate to high level of physical activity also had better survival prognoses compared with their more sedentary counterparts. Those men who were more active before diagnosis were more likely to have lower-risk cancer tumors and a history of prostate screenings. They were also leaner, more likely to be nonsmokers and vitamin users and they ate more fish. Wang concludes, “Our results support evidence that prostate cancer survivors should adhere to physical activity guidelines, and suggest that physicians should consider promoting a physically active lifestyle to their prostate cancer patients.”

Androgen Deprivation Therapy leads to numerous side effects, which can be decreased through exercise. Side effects of ADT include loss of muscle, increase in fat mass and osteoporosis. Risk for diabetes and heart disease also increases.  Brian Focht, reported at the November AICR convention, that functional ability increased dramatically as did quality of life for those that exercise, and side effects of ADT were reversed.

Exercise can decrease blood sugar levels, which lower insulin levels and also helps to lower inflammation. There does appear to be a positive association between insulin levels, inflammation and prostate cancer risk.

The evidence for physical activity in reducing anxiety and depression, while increasing general-well being is fairly substantial.  Improving well-being can have a dramatic beneficial effect on sexual function.  Consistent exercise will also help to lower insulin, blood sugar, and improve overall cardiovascular health, all of which have positive impact on erectile dysfunction and libido.

In 2016, Rider and Wilson studied the connection between ejaculation and prostate cancer, which was published in European Urology. Men that reported higher ejaculatory frequency were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. This study showed a beneficial role of frequent ejaculation particularly for low-risk disease.

Some doctors have traditionally told patients to rest during this time but Favil Singh’s research confirms the importance of getting fit prior to surgery. Singh’s research published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies has shown that a regular dose of physical activity prior to surgery helps the recovery process. This reduces time in the hospital.

Singh stated “This is the first time we’ve been able to demonstrate the benefits of ‘pre-habilitation’ for prostate cancer patients. It is safe, side effect-free and can be done while undergoing chemo or radiotherapy. Just two sessions a week of resistance and exercise training for six weeks can make a difference to recovery.”

Often, there is a waiting period in between diagnosis and surgery. If fitness level can be improved before surgery the patient, then the patient goes into the surgery stronger and may have a better recovery.

The American Cancer Society and American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. This advice is a good goal for those who have been inactive. Unfortunately, in my view this is insufficient for a significant number of cancer patients. Having worked with cancer patients for over 20 years, I believe that this recommendation needs to be changed. It is impossible to include aerobic exercise, strength training, and other exercise methods in the current recommended time frame. 


Carol J. Michaels is the founder and creator of Recovery Fitness® LLC, located in Short Hills, New Jersey. Her programs are designed to help cancer survivors in recovery through exercise programs. Carol, an award winning fitness and exercise specialist, has over 17 years of experience as a fitness professional and as a cancer exercise specialist. Visit her website, carolmichaelsfitness.com

References:

Steven C. Moore PhD, et al, Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2016; 176(6): 816-825.

Lynch B.M., Dunstan D.W., Vallance J.K., Owen N. Don’t take cancer sitting down: A new survivorship research agenda. Cancer. 2013, Jun 1; 119(11): 1928-35 Medicine

Kristina H. Karvinen, Kerry S. Courneya, Scott North and Peter Venner, Associations between Exercise and Quality of Life in Bladder Cancer Survivors: A Population-Based Study, Cancer Epidemiology and Biomarkers Prevention May 2007, 10.1158/1055-9965

Gopalakrishna et al, Lifestyle factors and health-related quality of life in bladder cancer survivors: a systematic review. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 2016 (5): 874-82

Vallance, J., Spark, L., & Eakin, E.. Exercise behavior, motivation, and maintenance among cancer survivors. In Exercise, Energy Balance, and Cancer (2013) (pp. 215-231). Springer

Cannioto et al., The association of lifetime physical inactivity with bladder and renal cancer risk: A hospital-based case-control analysis, Cancer Epidemiology, Volume 49 August 2017

Cramp F, Byron-Daniel J. Exercise for the management of cancer-related fatigue in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012; 14(11): CD006145.

Booth FW, et al., Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Compr Physiol. 2012 Apr; 2(2): 1143-211.

Stephanie Cash et al, Recreational physical activity and risk of papillary thyroid cancer among women in the California Teachers Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Feb 2013,37(1): 46-53

Hwang, Yunji MS; Lee, Kyu Eun MD, PhD; Park, Young Joo MD, PhD; et al, Annual Average Changes in Adult Obesity as a Risk Factor for Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Large-Scale Case-Control Study, Medicine, March 2016, Mar; 95(9): e2893

Cao Y, Ma J. Body mass index, prostate cancer-specific mortality, and biochemical recurrence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011; 4: 486-501.

Galvao, et al. Combined resistance and aerobic exercise program reverses muscle loss in men undergoing androgen suppression therapy for prostate cancer without bone metastases: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2010 Jan 10; 28(2): 340-7.

Galvao, et al. Exercise can prevent and even reverse adverse effects of androgen suppression treatment in men with prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2007; 10(4):340-6.

Winters-Stone KM, et al. Resistance training reduces disability in prostate cancer survivors on androgen deprivation therapy: evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 Jan; 96(1): 7-14.

Giovannucci EL, Liu Y, Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of physical activity and incident and fatal prostate cancer. Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165: 1005-1010.

Storer TW, Miciek R, Travison TG. Muscle function, physical performance and body composition changes in men with prostate cancer undergoing androgen deprivation therapy. Asian J Androl. 2012, Mar; 14(2): 204-21.

Focht, Brian C.; Lucas, Alexander R.; Grainger, Elizabeth; Simpson, Christina; Fairman, Ciaran M.; Thomas-Ahner, Jennifer; Clinton, Steven K., Effects of a Combined Exercise and Dietary Intervention on Mobility Performance in Prostate Cancer, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. May 2016:48(5S): 515.

Rider J, Wilson K.et al. Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow up, European Urology. December 2016, volume 70, issue 6

Singh F. et al. Feasibility of Presurgical Exercise in Men With Prostate Cancer Undergoing Prostatectomy, Integrative Cancer Therapies (2016). DOI: 10.1177/1534735416666373

Wang et al, Recreational Physical Activity in Relation to Prostate Cancer–specific Mortality Among Men with Nonmetastatic Prostate Cancer. European Urology July 2017 online bit.ly/2tXMK6Y

RB-health-and-wellness-coaching

Cancer, Lifestyle and Health Coaching

A cancer diagnosis is tremendously overwhelming and often takes away the feelings of control over one’s life. After diagnosis comes the whirlwind of information and new decisions that revolve around living with cancer. Health & Wellness Coaches work with clients in a variety of ways to help them navigate through the healthcare system and develop a self-created plan for treatment and lifestyle that supports the client in managing and re-gaining control over their lives.

Senior Couple Exercising In Park

The Right Exercise

I have mentioned many times thus far, not just that exercise is the managing partner of integrative oncology, but I try to be really careful to say the right exercise. As much as exercise does hold the key to our magic kingdom of health within, there are contraindications, both in terms of prevention and recovery, and prevention of recurrence.

fresh green salad with arugula and beetsTo understand this, let me give you a very brief intro to oxidative stress. We have all read about the importance of eating our fruits and vegetables to provide much needed antioxidants. This is because we live a life where oxidative stress is in abundance. As exercise is the one and only Rx with no bad side effects, the truth is, we should always say “the right exercise”.

Unfortunately in our world of extremes and quick fixes, we think of exercise as bop till you drop. Pushing hard, sweating — and as some celebrity trainers like to take pride in — push till you
throw up.

OK… I will NEVER support the latter, under any circumstance, but for some people pushing to the point of sweaty, dirty, pumped, driven, is a great thing.

I do believe the fountain of youth is our own sweat! And yes, that level of intensity to achieve that state differs greatly amongst people.

The danger exists, when people exceed their optimal levels, which we can do unknowingly. Given the chronic illnesses, the data seems to support most people are not exerting themselves in terms of exercise or physical activity anywhere near that optimal level.

Medical staff with senior people at gymHowever, with people recovering from cancer, it is very important to work at the right level, and know that slow and steady wins the race. And just to throw in another caveat – yes this level of intensity will vary drastically, depending on the type of cancer and treatments utilized.

Oxidative stress occurs when the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), often referred to as “free radicals,” exceeds antioxidant defence. There are many perpetrators in our world to the production of reactive oxygen species: alcohol, sugar, toxins, certain chemicals… a very long list, and the truth is we have to add exercise to this list if we are doing it beyond the appropriate point. Or if exercise is counterproductive to…

The balance between the ROS and antioxidants is out of whack, upsetting our inner ecosystem, creating an environment for cancer to survive and thrive. As always, its all about balance.

And this is yet another reason it is critical to have a well balanced, nutrition packed diet. The expression often used is “eat a rainbow”, because eating an assortment of colors (fruits and vegetables, not candy) is a great way to ensure getting a variety of antioxidants our bodies need to combat those free radicals. And by the way, the danger of an imbalance in this equation is a factor in not just cancer but many other diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, macular degeneration, autoimmune disorders. Now, let’s think about the many possible side effects of treatments (medications) for these diseases… cancer. OK, let’s eat our antioxidants! (I promise, much more about antioxidants in another article)

Or as my chick flick heart insists: Exercise & Nutrition are the greatest love affair of all times. One just cannot live without the other.

The point is NOT don’t exercise because it might be a source of oxidative stress. The point is we must expand our view of what exercise is. The point is to understand physical activity vs. exercise, dynamic vs. static exercise. Exercise is NOT about pushing in misery until you drop in a gym you don’t like! The point is there are many types of exercise that can be performed multiple times through out the day to tweak our immune & circular systems, and to accomplish that flow of Qi, that inner ecosystem.

The other point we have to remember, in all of our wonderful forms of exercise: training, cardio respiratory, strength, yoga, pilates, Qi Gong Tai chi, they all have wonderful benefits and healing powers. However, there are boundaries & contraindications for all of them. There are a number of parameters involved when deciding on an exercise program for cancer recovery & beyond. To name a very few: the type of cancer, treatment, potential for lymphedema, other pre-existing medical conditions, level of conditioning, goals of the program, fat loss suggested, preservation of muscle mass, side effects of treatment. And every one of these categories opens up many
other considerations.

Couple bikingBut the most important factor of all is the F factor, FUN. What will we actually, enjoy, embrace, do, and want more. We learn very quickly in the fitness business, “no time” is an excuse. When we know the literally infinite possibilities for physical activity, no time is an excuse, or, a very limited knowledge of what exercise is.

But step one is MOVE. Whether we move and pump those muscles when seated or standing, get it moving and pumping. Please consult a trained professional in cancer exercise training.

Even if the professional tells you they have worked with many cancer patients, it does not mean he or she has been trained in cancer exercise, and knows the many forms of exercise available, not just their own platform, and is aware there are contraindications, and potentially could have an adverse effect on recovery.

There is no one Rx for each cancer. We cannot say, “For breast cancer do this, for prostate cancer do that.”

Cancer exercise is both art and science, supports a mind body connection and creates an environment within to optimize treatment outcomes. Yes, always get permission from the health care professionals, but don’t let them think you are considering training for Ironman, This is not what cancer exercise is all about.

In exercise, we follow the FITT formula: Frequency Intensity Type Time

For cancer exercise I have modified this formula. FFITTT: FUN Frequency Intensity Type Time Telomeres…. leaves you hanging for another blog!

For a constant supply on recent studies on cancer prevention and recovery, please join me on Facebook.


Shira Litwack is the Director of International Relations and Master Trainer at, Cancer Exercise Training Institute and creator of Best in Health Radio.