Breast cancer has touched so many lives in one way or another. Many people have lost loved ones to cancer, but there are more and more people who survive this terrible illness. For those survivors it is important to focus on their health and overall quality of life. As treatments improve, a greater number of patients with breast cancer will survive their cancer. They have fought so hard and beat cancer, but this can have a huge effect on their mental state and well-being. In 1975, the survival rate for breast cancer in women was 75 percent; in 2007, it was 89 percent. Although survival rates continue to increase, breast cancer survivors are at increased risk for osteoporosis and decreased quality of life compared to healthy women (Van Poznak & Sauter, 2005). My job is to develop an exercise program for women at a cancer center that will have a number of different benefits including an increased quality of life. The program is called “The Pink Ladies” for a couple of reasons. First, I believe there is some pride that comes with being a breast cancer survivor. They have gone through so much physically and emotionally, for them to have won the battle is empowering. Secondly, the color pink is the theme color for breast cancer so obviously there is some meaning there. And finally, I think it is a name that will make people smile and be happy to be a part of this program, and that is the starting point to getting healthy and improving quality of life.
There has been extensive research with cancer patients and survivors demonstrating the benefits of physical activity (Gill & Williams, 2008). In developing an exercise program, I want to take into consideration the wants and interests of the women in the program. I believe this will help me develop something that will not only benefit their body, but also their mind. A big focus of this exercise program has to be improving their quality of life. “Quality of life is an individuals’ perceptions of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns” (Gill & Williams, p.176). Allowing them to participate in an activity they enjoy will help enhance their experience and allow them multiple benefits both physically and emotionally.
One activity I believe will benefit all of the exercisers is yoga. Yoga is a full body exercise that has many of the positive benefits we are looking for in our exercise program. Speed-Andrews (2010) found that after yoga 94 percent of breast cancer survivors said they had improvements in their quality of life; 88 percent felt better physically; 87 percent reported being happier and 80 percent were less tired. Other improvements were reported in body image and in decreased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. This is significant, considering breast cancer treatments often leave women in pain, immobilized, tired and depressed. I believe incorporating yoga into the program at least two days a week will result in greater overall strength both inside and out.
Another important aspect we need to incorporate into the exercise program is strength and resistance training. Some may be concerned about the risks of strength training after being treated for breast cancer, but there have been a number of studies done and their findings provide clear evidence that weight training is safe and even beneficial after breast cancer surgery (Kaunitz, 2009). My focus would be a lot of free weights and resistance bands for strength training and toning. We would do these exercises two to three times per week in order to see benefits. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (2006), to achieve the health benefits of resistance training, participation should include a minimum of two days per week. Strength training can improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors; however research on this topic is very new.
Cancer is one of the most feared words in the English language. The women in this program all have something in common; they are all survivors. This commonality allows them to have immediate trust in each other and therefore will benefit each other through motivation and encouragement. Taking part in group activities will increase enjoyment because of interactions and feedback from peers (Gill & Williams, 2008). Therefore, taking part in this exercise program and sharing this experience with women who have walked in their shoes will allow them maximum benefits. As with any workout program, there will be struggles, but knowing they are surrounded by people who have been where they have been, and have similar goals as they do, will allow them to get the benefits both physically and emotionally.
American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM's resource manual for guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (7th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Human Kinetics.
Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.).
: Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL
Kaunitz, A. (2009). Strength training: Safe in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. Journal Watch Women's Health, NA.
Speed-Andrews, A. (2010). Special yoga classes aimed at breast cancer survivors improves recovery. Women's Health Weekly, 142.
Van Poznak, C., & Sauter, N.P. (2005). Clinical management of osteoporosis in women with a history of breast carcinoma. Cancer, 104(3), 443-456.