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  • Writer's pictureBankstown Physiotherapy

Exercise after lung cancer surgery important for recovery

New research led by Curtain University has found that lung cancer patients who exercise after surgery to remove a tumour experience increased fitness and strength in their leg muscles as well as a decrease in shortness of breath compared to those who are inactive.

The research paper, ‘Exercise training undertaken by people within 12 months of lung resection for non-small cell lung cancer,' published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, studied whether exercise was beneficial for people diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and who had a lung resection in the past 12 months.

Lead author of the study Dr Vinicius Cavalheri, a Cancer Council WA Postdoctoral Fellow and Senior Lecturer from the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University, said lung cancer continued to be a growing problem, and NSCLC is particularly significant, making up more than 85 per cent of all cases globally.

“The survival rate for NSCLC is considerably better than small cell lung cancer, with an estimated 40 per cent of people who undergo the lung resection surgery of the primary tumour likely to survive more than five years.”

“In this systematic review, the results of studies that included participants who took part in exercise training such as aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, or a combination of both, within 12 months of the surgery were pooled together.

“We examined whether health outcomes such as fitness level, quality of life, muscle strength and symptoms of shortness of breath and fatigue could be improved through this type of training.

“The review found that people with NSCLC who exercise after lung surgery have better fitness levels and strength in their leg muscles, compared to those who did not. We also found that they experienced a better quality of life and less shortness of breath following exercise,” Dr Cavalheri said.

The research could not explain whether exercise training after lung surgery had any impact on grip strength, fatigue and lung function. There was also insufficient evidence to determine whether it also improved the strength of breathing muscles or feelings of anxiety and depression.

Dr Cavalheri said previous research found that more than 80 per cent of people who had this type of surgery to treat lung cancer failed to engage in physical activity in the six months following their treatment.

“After lung surgery for NSCLC, people’s fitness levels and quality of life decrease, and they may also experience symptoms of weight loss, anorexia, anaemia and muscle wasting.

“Our findings have important implications for people who are recovering from a lung resection, highlighting that exercise training has important benefits for people who have had this type of surgery.

“Referrals to exercise programs following surgery should be considered to improve the fitness and quality of life of patients with lung cancer,” Dr Cavalheri said.

Article by: Haley Williams

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