By Reggie Heywood (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)
Did you know that one in six men in Australia will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85? It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and despite a vast array of treatment options available that can manage the disease and its symptoms, thousands of men are living with the effects of prostate cancer. This is essentially a result of better survival rate and better technology (allowing early detection, diagnostics and improved disease specific treatment).
Fortunately, there has more recently been a focus placed on the survivors who have to deal with the treatment related side effects and residual symptoms of the disease.
If we consider the disease process and management of prostate cancer – we can see how numerous men can be afflicted long after they have finished treatment and are in remission:
Prostate cancer is known as a “hormone receptor positive” cancer – which means it responds to changes in hormones, specifically testosterone and other androgens in this case.
The prostate is assisted in its function by testosterone and other androgens (the hormones that give rise to masculine features in males). Furthermore, testosterone assists in growth of the prostate and growth of the cancerous cells. This often involves enlargement, pain and inflammation of the prostate, which can also cause pelvic floor and sexual dysfunction. However, a large degree of difficulty tends to occur in those who have undergone an intervention such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy to the prostate which damages (or removes) the organ along with the cancerous cells.
Some prostate cancers will have surgery performed on the testes to reduce testosterone production and limit the growth of the cancer. However, the most common treatment for prostate cancer, known as Androgen Deprivation Therapy, is a drug-based therapy which specifically reduces testosterone and other androgen production to prevent the prostate from enlarging, and limits progression of the cancerous cells.
When this happens a host of negative effects ensue, but fortunately, a lot of the side effects of the common prostate cancer treatments can be combated with exercise.
Top 10 symptoms of prostate cancer treatment symptoms that respond to exercise:
- Reduced muscle strength and mass
- Increased fat mass
- Reduced bone density
- Reduced energy levels and fatigue
- Reduced testosterone
- Cognitive decline and memory loss
- Increased blood lipids (LDL, Total Cholesterol, Triglycerides)
- Increased blood glucose levels and insulin resistance
- Incontinence and pelvic floor weakness
Good quality studies show us that exercise is not only effective for treating prostate cancer symptoms – but could be one of the most effective ways to offset/reduce the treatment related sided effects of prostate cancer when appropriately prescribed. There is still room for further studies to be performed, but researchers suggest that resistance training exercise is safe and potentially more effective than cardiovascular based or aerobic exercise in offsetting prostate cancer specific symptoms.
What’s even more exciting is that there is now a lot of research showing how markers of disease progression, cancer cell growth/re-growth and survival can also be improved significantly with the right type and right amount of exercise.
All of the research surrounding exercise in prostate cancer patients is telling us that exercise has a direct effect on cancer progression and tolerance of cancer treatment which ultimately allows patients to improve their quality and length of life.
Have a look at this video from ABC Catalyst 2016: Exercise and Cancer
Ensure that you consult with a health care professional such as an exercise physiologist like myself, who understands the common toxicities associated with cancer treatments, including in- creased risk for fractures and cardiovascular events with hormonal therapies, neuropathies related to certain types of chemotherapy, musculoskeletal morbidities secondary to treatment, and treatment-related cardiotoxicity. Survivors with metastatic disease to the bone will require modification of their exercise program (e.g., reduced impact, intensity, volume) given the increased risk of bone fragility and fractures.
So if you would like more information on this topic, or to book in a consultation, ring Everton Park Physio on 3354 1819 to book an appointment with me.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Reggie has a keen interest in developing targeted lifestyle interventions for chronic and complex conditions . He thoroughly believes that exercise is medicine and that educating and empowering people to self-manage their existing injuries and prevent future health concerns is the key to leading a healthy & fulfilling life.
768 Stafford Rd, Everton Park, QLD 4053