Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Position statement
This position statement has been a long time coming and I am thrilled to see it finally published! COSA calls for exercise to be “embedded as a part of standard practice in cancer care and viewed as an adjunct therapy that helps counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment”.
When it comes to exercise before, during and after cancer treatment the research evidence is profound and progressing incredibly fast! It is time that all health professionals involved in the treatment of cancer recognise the potential impact that exercise can have by reducing the number and severity of side effects, improving adherence to treatment protocols, increasing and/or maintaining function for easier return to pre-treatment activities and improving long-term survival.
The downside of this is navigating the side effects of treatment makes exercising safely much more challenging. This is why a referral to an Exercise Physiologist, who is experienced in Exercise Oncology, can make all the difference. Reaching the recommended 150 min of moderate intensity physical activity is hard enough in normal life when you add in further complexities associated with cancer treatment then reaching that target of 150 min seems nearly impossible. Doing too much too soon can also have a negative impact. An Exercise Physiologist will gently guide you through the ups and downs of treatment and prescribe an exercise plan for both the good times and the not so good times, so that there are always options for you. You will be amazed at how achievable it is to reach the recommendations when you have a plan.
The position statement key points are:
- being physically active and exercising regularly are important for the health, function, quality of life and, potentially, survival of people with cancer;
- the majority of people with cancer do not meet exercise recommendations;
- people with cancer express a desire to become and to stay sufficiently active but need advice and support to do so; and
- to maximise safety and therapeutic effect, exercise should be prescribed and delivered under the direction of an accredited exercise physiologist with a focus on transitioning to ongoing self-managed exercise.
The industry leaders who created this position statement dream that exercise will be a standard of cancer care in the future. The biggest barrier to this is funding such a change. At present most people need to pay privately with some support from Medicare/Private Health Funds. I call on the organisations that raise money for cancer research to start funding campaigns that actually make a difference to an individual’s life such as exercise programs! The difference of being physically active while going through and recovering from cancer treatment is profound and can have a much more marked impact on how someone lives beyond treatment.
As an Exercise Physiologist who has worked in Exercise Oncology for over 10 years, I am excited to see how much we are moving forwards in this field and I look forward to what the future holds. My hope is that in the future people receive exercise treatment from diagnosis through to survival in conjunction to their standard care.