Exercise is Difficult, but Beneficial, for Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Patients
While exercise has long been touted for its countless benefits, many people stop exercising once they are diagnosed with lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma and other lung diseases as their energy levels and strength begin to decline. However, that is when they may need it most. According to Lee Jones, PhD, scientific director of the Duke Center for Cancer Survivorship at Duke University School of Medicine, “fitness is among one of the strongest predictors of how long you will live.”
Jones goes on to say that fitness levels in lung cancer patients are 30 to 40 percent below average healthy adults. But, with an appropriate exercise regimen, patients can increase their fitness level, as well as reaping the added benefits such as seeing improvements in their energy levels, mood, mental acuity, sleep patterns, breathing, and a generally improved quality of life while undergoing lung cancer or mesothelioma treatment.
Pleural mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that is almost always caused by asbestos exposure and is most commonly found in the outer lining of the lungs called the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments, however, it can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
Exercise for the cancer patient does require caution, and there will be days when exercise is not practical. Prior to beginning any fitness routine it should be discussed with your physician. Cancer Foundation for Life, founded by Dr. Gary T. Kimmel, an oncologist for over 30 years, offers the following guidelines:
- Start off with short periods of activity, such as a short walk.
- As your strength and breathing ability improves, increase your activity to two or three times a day. Find what you are able to do and add on it, including plenty of rest as needed.
- Resistance training can be added to improve strength.
- If side effects are severe following chemotherapy, wait to resume exercise until you feel better. Resume at 30-50% of your customary routine and gradually increase to your normal level of exercise over the next 2 to 10 days.
- If side effects are mild to moderate following chemotherapy, reduce your exercise level by about 50%, gradually increasing to your normal level of exercise over the next 2 to 7 days.
- If you experience unusual shortness of breath, chest tightness, chest discomfort or aching in the jaws, stop exercising and promptly notify your physician.
The goal is to exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week, and it can be done in 30 non-consecutive minutes.