The first study of its kind in the UK, the Sheffield Exercise and Breast Cancer Trial (SHERBERT) investigated the physical and psychological health benefits of exercise therapy following treatment for breast cancer. More than one hundred breast cancer survivors from Sheffield and the surrounding area took part in the four-year study and reported that exercise gave them a boost in self-confidence, everyday functioning and a new purpose and challenge in life beyond cancer.
The SHERBERT ladies were recruited and randomly allocated to one of three groups. Exercise therapy included moderate intensity exercise such as walking and cycling. The exercise-placebo consisted of light body conditioning, and the third group whereby the women followed the usual care path without exercise. The ladies took part in exercise sessions at Sheffield Hallam University three times a week for a period of eight weeks, supported and guided by a trained therapist.
Janet Beech, a participant in the study, summed up her experience of the trial: “This course gave me a push after six months of chemotherapy and thirty treatments of radiotherapy. It kept me motivated and I now go to the gym twice a week, and have almost forgotten my diagnosis of 2002'. Vera Axe, another participant said: “If I had been offered exercise earlier it would have stopped me having to go for counselling”.
The study was designed and led by Dr Amanda Daley at the University of Birmingham and funded by Cancer Research UK. Dr. Daley said: “The study shows that those women who were allocated to the exercise therapy intervention, experienced an increase in their quality of life and physical health, more noticeably than those women who took part in the other care groups. Women who took part in the exercise therapy group also felt they were functioning better in their everyday lives and were more confident about their bodies.”
The weekly exercise sessions were delivered by Helen Crank at a dedicated exercise facility at Sheffield Hallam University. She said: "The treatment for breast cancer can leave women depressed, gaining weight and an overall reduction in their quality of life. It is vital that as the number of women surviving breast cancer is increasing, that we have the potential to improve patients' quality of life and hasten recovery."
Over 42,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every year. The results of the study have shown that exercise plays an important role in the rehabilitation of cancer patients. Both Universities are committed to researching the effects of diet, exercise and lifestyle changes in other cancer patients groups.
Dr Daley continues: "In the long-term we hope to see exercise as part of the routine rehabilitation of all cancer patients in the UK.”
Donna Goodwin | alfa
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