16 July 2012
Four in five cancer patients who have completed treatment say their GPs (82%), oncologists (77%) and clinical nurse specialists (79%) did not speak to them about the importance of being physically active, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support.
This is despite evidence which shows that being active during and after treatment can minimise the side effects of treatment, and could help prevent recurrence and dying from the disease for some cancers.
Alarmingly the YouGov poll of 1,098 cancer patients aged 18-88 revealed that two in five patients (37%) say they are not currently physically active at all - potentially putting their recovery at risk.
Adults are advised to undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Being active to recommended levels can help reduce the impact of side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, muscle wasting, decreased mobility, depression and anxiety.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“This new research shows that the message is still not being passed on to cancer patients about just how important it is for them to keep active.
“We know that people going through gruelling cancer treatment tend to feel out of control and it can be a very frightening time. Knowing what you can do to help yourself and your recovery is both encouraging and helpful.
“It is crucial that health professionals encourage people living with cancer to stay physically active and Macmillan will continue to work with and support them to ensure that this happens.”
Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and leading clinical oncologist, says:
“As a cancer specialist it's hard to encourage people to think about fitness during and after gruelling cancer treatment. It’s easier to tell people to rest. But increasingly, many patients will need our help to bust the myth that resting up is always the right thing to do, so they do not miss out on the ‘wonder drug’ of exercise, which can make all the difference to recovery.”
Ian Rigby, 60, from Surrey, was not told about the benefits of keeping active during his treatment for rectal and liver cancer. He says:
“I had people saying to me to be positive but it was frustrating – I wanted to know how I could create a positive attitude, what I could do practically to improve my chances of beating the cancer.
“Throughout my treatment I decided to just try and walk whenever I could, even if it was only a little. Small targets: like putting one foot in front of the other, walking ten yards, climbing a flight of stairs. At first I could only walk 100 yards and would have to stop, but each day you can do a little more. Gradually I started to feel better. The key is to keep moving.
“Patients need advice about what type of exercise during and after treatment would be beneficial for their cancer. There is a real need for more information on what you can do to help yourself at home. Heart specialists tell their patients to get out and exercise, psychologists tell patients with depression to keep active, but cancer specialists are not quite there yet.”
Macmillan is working in partnership with UCL, Loughborough University and Sheffield University as part of the Olympic legacy to increase knowledge and understanding of the proven benefits of physical activity for people living with cancer and to develop best practice to influence the NHS.
For support getting into or back into physical activity you can visit www.macmillan.org.uk/movemore and request an information pack or call our support line on 0808 808 0000.
For further information, please contact:
Claire Keuls, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4872 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1 Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 1,098 people living with cancer in the UK. Fieldwork undertaken between 5-27 April 2012. 417 patients had completed treatment within the last two years. Survey results have not been weighted. 82% of patients completing treatment within the last two years said their GP had not spoken to them about the importance of being physically active during or after treatment, 77% said the same about their oncologist and 79% said the same about clinical nurse specialists.
2 Macmillan Cancer Support (2011) The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review.
3 Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 1,098 people living with cancer in the UK. Fieldwork undertaken between 5-27 April 2012. 417 patients had completed treatment within the last two years. Survey results have not been weighted. 37% of patients completing treatment within the last two years had not been physically active for 30 minutes or more on any of the seven days prior to the survey.
4 Recommended levels of physical activity for adults are 150 minutes moderate intensity activity a week. Department of Health (2011) Start Active, Stay Active, A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers.
5 Macmillan Cancer Support (2011) Move More: Physical activity the underrated ‘wonder drug’. This report highlights evidence reviewed as part of Macmillan Cancer Support (2011) The importance of physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer: A concise evidence review.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way.
We are the nurses and therapists helping you through treatment. The experts on the end of the phone. The advisers telling you which benefits you’re entitled to. The volunteers giving you a hand with the everyday things. The campaigners improving cancer care. The fundraisers who make it all possible.
You don’t have to face cancer alone. The Macmillan team is here to support you every step of the way. For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 00 00.