Prostate cancer pain, worries about how bones will hold up when the disease has spread there, and difficulty finding fitness facilities are among the reasons some men with the cancer fail to exercise, Irish researchers report.
They titled their clinical trial findings, which appeared in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer, “The views of patients with metastatic prostate cancer towards physical activity: a qualitative exploration.”
A lot of research has shown that exercising benefits cancer patients, regardless of how advanced their disease is. This includes patients whose cancer has spread to bones. Even low-intensity exercising improves patients’ physical and emotional functioning, studies have shown.
Cancer that metastasizes, or spreads to other areas of the body, can cause debilitating symptoms — including pain, fatigue and nausea — that limit exercise. Treatment side effects can also make it more difficult to work out.
The Irish researchers wanted to identify factors that prevented men with prostate cancer that had spread from exercising. They asked 20 men with cancer that had reached their bones eight questions about physical activity.
Each had cancer that had spread to at least two bone areas. The men’s mean age was 71. Their mean body mass index was at a level classified as slightly obese.
The team’s report had four themes: (1) barriers to physical activity, (2) benefits of exercising, (3) reduction in physical activity after a prostate cancer diagnosis, and (4) social support for exercising.
A key finding was that burdensome metastatic prostate cancer symptoms and treatment side effects, such as pain and fatigue, discouraged exercise. Some of the men said they shied away from exercise over concern about what physical activity would do to the bones their cancer had spread to.
Non-physical barriers to exercise that the patients mentioned included bad weather and lack of fitness facilities in rural areas. Some of the men said family members’ indifference to their need to exercise also discouraged them.
Another finding was that the longer it had been since a man had received an advanced cancer diagnosis, the less likely that he’d exercise.
The men’s answers also showed that many knew little about the benefits of cancer patients exercising. This underscored the need for more education on the subject, the researchers said.
Overall, the study showed that “men living with metastatic prostate cancer have unique needs regarding physical activity related to symptoms of both their cancer and cancer treatment,” the researchers wrote.
The findings also highlight the need to make exercise more accessible and adaptable to prostate cancer patients, the team said.
“Patients may benefit from referral to appropriate exercise therapists specialized in the area of oncology [cancer treatment] to discuss physical activity plans during cancer treatment and recovery,” the researchers suggested.