30 December 2011
One in three cancer patients (32%) are less physically active since their cancer treatment. This is despite shocking figures about just how important physical activity is to the recovery and long term health of cancer patients, according to research by Macmillan Cancer Support.
More worryingly 74% of cancer patients said their doctor or nurse did not talk to them about the benefits of physical activity after cancer.
Macmillan’s recent report, Move More, highlighted startling evidence showing just how important physical activity is to the recovery and long term health of cancer patients. Four key findings in the report were:
• breast cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing recommended levels4 of physical activity,
• bowel cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by around 50% by doing significant amounts of physical activity,
• prostate cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 30% by doing recommended levels of physical activity
• after treatment all cancer patients can reduce their risk of getting side effects of cancer and its treatment by doing recommended levels of physical activity. These include fatigue, depression, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Professor Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support said:
'This research highlights that many cancer patients are actually less physically active after their cancer treatment than they were before. We know cancer treatment is tough and gruelling, and many people probably feel they should give their bodies a rest afterwards. But even moderate physical activity is vital in aiding the recovery process and with some cancers in reducing the risk of recurrence and mortality, so if anything we should be expecting an increase.
'What is more worrying is that so few cancer patients learnt of these benefits through their doctor or nurse. This is clear evidence that there is a need for a culture change within the NHS, to prioritise discussing physical and providing the relevant services during and after cancer treatment.
'However, while the picture across the NHS is far from ideal, we have been greatly encouraged by the pockets of good practice and the positive response from some enthusiastic health professionals who have got in touch with us for support and training materials.'
Fiona, 46, from Paisley in Scotland, attended weekly exercise clinics following treatment for breast cancer at her local hospital. Breast care nurses were on hand to answer any questions.
'After the chemotherapy and radiotherapy I underwent to treat my cancer I felt really tired and self-conscious. I was very aware of how I looked, especially as I'd put on weight, and my confidence dropped dramatically.
'When I was offered a place on the Mbrace scheme, which encourages women who've had breast cancer to exercise, I really didn't feel ready for it. But after my first class, I felt a million times better - physically and emotionally. The exercises were designed specifically for women who'd undergone cancer treatment and it was so reassuring to meet a group of women who were going through similar experiences to me. We had a really good laugh together so the whole experience was really light-hearted. I can now take on activities I couldn’t do before I started the classes and feel fantastic.”
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020 7840 4872 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
 Macmillan/YouGov Plc survey. Total sample size was 1,495 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 16th August 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted. Results showed 32% of patients say they feel less active since their cancer treatment, 52% say they feel about the same, and 15% say they feel more active. We do not have data on the amount/intensity of physical activity undertaken before/after treatment so cannot assess the proportion of patients meeting recommended levels of activity.
 Macmillan Cancer Support (2011) Move More: Physical activity the underrated ‘wonder drug’. This report highlights evidence reviewed as part of Macmillan’s more detailed 2011 report ‘The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review.
 Macmillan/YouGov Plc survey. Total sample size was 1,495 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 16th August 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted.
 Recommended levels of physical activity for adults are 150 minutes moderate intensity activity a week. See Department of Health (2011) Start Active, Stay Active, A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. Link to guidance below:
 Increasing the amount of moderate intensity physical activity up to recommended levels can help reduce breast cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease and of recurrence by up to 40%, compared to those doing less than an hour a week.
 Bowel cancer patients doing around 6 hours of moderate intensity physical activity a week could help reduce their risk of dying from the disease by around 50% compared to those doing less than an hour a week. Evidence from two studies also shows that bowel cancer patients doing around 6 hours of physical activity a week could help reduce their risk of cancer coming back by around 50%, compared to those doing less than an hour a week.
 Doing recommended levels of physical activity can help reduce prostate cancer patients’ risk of dying from the disease by up to 30% compared to those doing less than an hour a week.
 Evidence about the benefits of physical activity in reducing the side-effects of cancer and its treatment include:
• Speck RM, Courneya KS, Mässe LC, Duval S, Schmitz KH (2010) An update of controlled physical activity trials in cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Cancer Surviv 4:87-100
• Cramp and Daniel (2008) Physical activity for the management of cancer related fatigue in adults. Cochrane. Database. Syst. Rev. 2008
• Chief Medical Officer (CMO) (2004) At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health, London: Department of Health (DH)
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. More than one in three of us get cancer. Two million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.
The MBrace clinic is one of a series of Macmillan pilot studies that are taking place across the UK that link physical exercise with well-being and rehabilitation. MBrace is the only hospital based class