Expert Discusses the Importance of 'Exercise as Medicine' for Patients with Cancer and Survivors

The role of exercise in the cancer journey can provide its own form of medicine, explains one expert in an interview with CURE.

Exercise can offer a range of benefits not just for cancer survivors, but also for patients with cancer who are in active treatment, says one expert.

CURE® recently spoke with Laurie Hatch, RD, CSO, an oncology dietician with SCL Health, Lutheran Medical Center — and a cancer survivor herself – about how the attitude towards exercise during treatment has changed in recent years. Hatch, who also has a specialist credential in oncology, also touched on how exercise can help improve quality of life in survivorship, as well as ease some of the side effects of active treatment, including nausea, fatigue, and more.


CURE: Why is exercise important for cancer survivors, or even for patients in active treatment?

Hatch: That's a really good question. I think it gets tangled up a little bit. Let’s focus on exercise, because that's what we're really talking about here. Exercise is important not just during the survivorship but also during treatment.

I can remember years ago when I started back in 2004, we had advice from our physicians telling patients to just sit down and take it easy. And that has really changed over the last five to 10 years.

During treatment, exercise is important simply because it helps to manage nausea, fatigue, constipation, and I think one of the most medically unrecognized issues that it addresses is body image. Because when we exercise, our body and our minds begin to work in unison much better. For a much better outcome for patients, they just become more aware of the body that they inhabit. So, it's important in that respect.

And in survivorship, exercise addresses many issues. It addresses the fatigue, the nausea, also if there are any underlying and ongoing problems, but it also addresses weight management. Exercise does not necessarily lead to weight loss, but it helps us to manage the weight at which we have attained.

It also addresses bone health, for women or other patients who have had a loss of bones or they're taking a medication that takes away their bone density. It addresses muscle mass, which helps keep their bodies at the right body weight. It's the body image.

There's just so many things about it. I think that it's beginning to be used as exercise as medicine. When oncologists are talking to their patients, I hear it more and more and I read it more and more in physician’s documentation, and I'm really, really pleased with that.