-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Dec. 12, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise might help
breast cancer survivors relieve the joint pain that is a side
effect of their medications, researchers say.
A new study included patients who were taking aromatase
inhibitor drugs, such as Arimidex (anastrozole), Femara (letrozole)
and Aromasin (exemestane). Five years of treatment with these drugs
is recommended for survivors who had stages 1, 2 or 3 hormone
receptor-positive breast cancers. This form of the disease accounts
for nearly 70 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases.
Nearly half of those who take these medications, however,
experience joint pain and stiffness. These side effects are the
most common reason patients stop taking the drugs, the study
authors said in an American Association for Cancer Research news
In this study, breast cancer survivors who were taking aromatase
inhibitors and had joint pain were divided randomly into two
groups. One group completed a year-long exercise program while the
other group received usual care.
The exercise program involved supervised resistance and strength
training as well as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
Joint pain decreased 20 percent among women in the exercise
group, while those in the usual-care group had no change or slight
increases in joint pain, the researchers found. The patients in the
exercise group had decreased joint pain regardless of age, cancer
stage, how long they had been taking the medications and whether
they received chemotherapy, radiation or both.
The study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at the San
Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, in Texas. The data and conclusions
should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
"These results are a promising first step in developing [therapies] that can improve aromatase inhibitor-associated joint pain and, in turn, [medication] adherence, breast cancer survival and quality of life," study author Melinda Irwin, an associate professor of chronic disease epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said in the news release.
The next step is to determine how exercise helps relieve pain in
these patients, such as through reducing weight or inflammation, or
increasing muscle strength, said Irwin, who is also co-leader of
the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at the Yale
The American Cancer Society outlines
what happens after breast cancer treatment.
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