A supervised exercise program during adjuvant therapy for breast cancer improved cardiopulmonary function in women enrolled in the EBBA-II trial.
"Breast cancer survival rates have improved, but many survivors experience a decline in cardiovascular function. Treatment-induced cardiotoxicity is a major concern, and cardiovascular disease is a competing cause of death among breast cancer survivors," lead investigator Dr. Inger Thune from Oslo University Hospital in Norway said in a press statement.
"(O)ur study supports incorporation of supervised clinical exercise programs into breast cancer treatment guidelines," she said.
Female patient. Source: Getty
The new findings were reported during a press briefing December 7 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
The EBBA-II trial included 545 women (mean age, 55) who had undergone surgery for stage-1 or stage-2 breast cancer who were receiving adjuvant chemotherapy, radiation, endocrine therapy or a combination.
The women were randomly assigned to either 12 months of an exercise intervention led by physiotherapists (271 women) or to a control group (274 women). The exercise program started two to three weeks after surgery.
The women received an individualized training program based on their maximum oxygen consumption during incremental exercise (VO2 max) at baseline. They did aerobic exercise, stretching, and weight training exercises for 60 minutes twice a week in small-group settings. They were also asked to get an additional 120 minutes of physical activity each week on their own.
At six months, women in both groups experienced a decline in VO2 max from their pre-surgery levels, but the decline was much more pronounced in the control group. After 12 months, VO2 max had rebounded in the women in the exercise group and was 0.3% higher than at baseline, while those in the control group continued to have VO2 max below baseline.
Dr. Thune told the briefing it's "striking" that for all patient groups, whether they received chemotherapy or not, "there was a really good effect of being in the physical activity program."
Physical activity during breast-cancer treatment not only improves cardiopulmonary function but may also reduce fatigue and improve quality of life, she added.
Commenting on the study, briefing moderator and co-director of the symposium Dr. Kent Osborne from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said, "This is one of three or four studies (. . .) in the last few years showing the value of exercise (and) the first one to look at an actual cardiovascular endpoint, VO2 max, but all of them show that patients do better (with exercise)."
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2018.