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Physical Activity Helps Chemotherapy Side Effects

Breast cancer patients may experience better cognitive function.

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Women exercising for chemotherapy side effects

People coping with cancer treatment are often saddled with one of the chemotherapy side effects called “chemo brain.” These cognitive issues may include areas related to remembering names or where things are, as well as challenges with learning new tasks, organizing thoughts, decision-making, or paying attention and concentrating. Some struggle with cognitive problems and chemotherapy side effects for years after treatment ends.

Can exercise help?

Researchers from multiple U.S. institutions conducted a study to evaluate physical activity and among breast cancer patients before, during and after chemotherapy and the link between physical activity and cognitive function. After evaluating more than 900 women, researchers found that more physical activity among breast cancer patients before and during chemotherapy treatment was linked with better cognitive function immediately after treatment and 6 months after treatments finished.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2021; doi:10.1200/JCO.20).

See also: Training Cancer Patients


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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