By Marilynn Marchione
The Associated Press
Exercise might help women beat breast cancer. Researchers found it can ease the achy joints and muscle pain that lead many patients to quit taking medicines that treat the disease and lower the risk of a recurrence.
The study is the first major test of an exercise program for women on aromatase inhibitors. These estrogen-blocking pills, sold as Femara, Aromasin and other brands, are recommended for five years after initial breast cancer treatment for hormone-driven tumors, the most common type.
The pills also increasingly are being used to help prevent breast cancer in women at high risk because of family history, bad genes or other reasons.
Despite how effective the drugs are, many women shun them because they can cause aches and pains, hot flashes and other side effects. About 15 percent of U.S. women have enough risk to merit considering the pills to prevent breast cancer, yet less than 5 percent take them, said Dr. Powel Brown, a prevention expert at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The exercise study involved 121 postmenopausal women taking various aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer who complained of achy joints on a pain survey.
About half were assigned to two supervised strength training sessions a week plus at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. The rest got advice on the benefits of exercise and did their usual activities.
The National Cancer Institute paid for the study, which was led by Melinda Irwin of the Yale Cancer Center and Dr. Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.