Mesothelioma is a nasty cancer curable in its initial stages; however, it becomes overwhelming for the patient once it has spread on a large scale. The sad reality of this disease is its latency period. It takes decades for the disease to develop and show symptoms. And once it does, it’s already in the later stages. The prognosis of this disease is extremely poor, and the median survival rate is 4-18 months.
There isn’t any cure for the disease, but the treatment has been slightly successful in suppressing the growth of the cancerous cell. This improves the lifespan of the person receiving treatment. The bitter reality of mesothelioma or any type of cancer is the treatment too. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy have side effects like fatigue, anemia, and infections that can further weaken the patient’s health. It takes weeks and months to recover from these side effects.
Research on body fitness has been of great importance to oncologists. Staying physically fit is beneficial in warding off these side effects and ensuring you complete your treatment.
Benefits of Staying Fit
Mesothelioma treatment is a long road, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Exercise can help you stay healthy and strong while you’re going through mesothelioma treatment, and it can provide an outlet for some of the stress that comes with this disease. Your mind and spirit can still be strong even though you may feel like your body is falling apart.
Research in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, 2015, stated that lung cancer patients or mesothelioma patients experienced improved muscle strength and decreased difficulty in breathing. The study participants were asked to exercise twice a week for eight weeks.
There are many benefits to staying fit during treatment.
- Fitness can improve your quality of life.
- Fitness can help you cope with your symptoms and side effects.
- Fitness may help you maintain your independence and ability to perform daily tasks as you recover from treatment.
- Physical activity can relieve stress and anxiety, which also helps people cope with mesothelioma.
- Exercise contributes to overall health and well-being at any age, even if you have been sedentary for a long time.
- Staying active can help improve sleep quality
Having a fixed routine for workouts and exercise can help patients with mesothelioma overcome fatigue and a monotonous routine. Doctors advise their patients to keep mobile and participate in as many household chores as possible. Other recommended exercises include:
- Gentle yoga
This type of yoga is designed for people recovering from surgery or illness. It incorporates poses that focus on stretching and strengthening muscles while improving breathing techniques to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. It can also help ease the pain from cancer treatments while improving flexibility and range of motion, which may be limited by the side effects of treatment. Yoga classes are available at many gyms and community centers. You can also find a private instructor for better comfort.
Walking is one of the most basic forms of exercise, but it’s also one of the best ways to stay active when undergoing mesothelioma treatment because it doesn’t require any equipment or special skills — just a good pair of shoes! It’s also one of the best ways to help your mind and body heal during and after treatment. Walking in the fresh air can help your body relax and can greatly affect your mental well-being.
Swimming is another low-impact exercise that allows most people with cancer to move freely in the water without putting stress on their bodies or joints. You don’t need a swimming pool — many community centers offer lap swims where you can join others who share your interest in staying fit during treatment.
- Cycling and elliptical training
Pushing yourself a little harder than usual can help boost your endorphin levels and improve your mood. Try a brisk walk or jog outside if possible, but if the weather is bad or you’re feeling tired, use an indoor exercise machine instead. These low-impact activities work for many large muscle groups at once and can help improve cardiovascular fitness. It is also easy on the joints.
- Lightweight strength training
This type of exercise uses much lighter weights than those used in traditional weight training programs — usually 2-5 pounds (1-2 kg) per limb — so it’s easy on joints and muscles during treatment for mesothelioma. The goal is to slowly build up strength over time rather than lifting heavy weights right away. It is advised that you talk with your doctor before starting a strength training program.
- Tai chi and qigong
These traditional Chinese exercises are known for their mind-body benefits. This therapy uses slow, gentle movements combined with deep breathing patterns to improve balance, flexibility, relaxation, mood, and pain tolerance in cancer survivors with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). These exercises also improve circulation and strengthen muscles all over the body.
Exercises to avoid
It is important to note that not every exercise will benefit you. Here are some exercises that you should avoid at all costs.
- Sports that can cause trauma or injury to your chest areas like football, rugby, basketball, hockey, and boxing.
- Wrestling, martial arts, and similar activities
- Exercise that requires lifting heavy weights over your head or bending over repeatedly
- High-impact activities like running or jumping on hard surfaces
- Fast cardiovascular training
- Power yoga
These activities can cause additional pain and discomfort and increase your risk of developing complications related to surgery or medication. You may also cause a rupture in your pleural cavity if the lining has weakened from surgery or other treatments for mesothelioma.
The mesothelioma treatment will likely leave you with some debilitating side effects. The good news is that getting and staying active can help. Staying fit during your treatment is important because it decreases side effects and allows recovery more quickly. These exercise routines are great for you to start practicing, and they’re modified to help reduce the strain on your joints. No doubt, there is no magic formula to beating mesothelioma. But staying active and maintaining a routine workout regimen can only assist in a speedy recovery.
If you struggle with breathing or experience pain in your chest, you must seek a medical opinion to ensure that you are fit enough to exercise. Mesothelioma treatment can be emotionally challenging, but we should not let it overwhelm us. If you have the energy, get active and get better.