Using Exercise To Treat Prostate Cancer

Researchers believe intense fitness sessions can eliminate need for invasive treatments

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HIIT may be a particularly effective type of exercise for men.

Scientific evidence suggests exercise may play an important role in suppressing some cancerous tumours and new Canadian research at the University of Alberta is studying whether exercise can similarly improve the prognosis for prostate cancer patients.

Prostate cancer has the unsavoury distinction of being the most common cancer for men in Canada and one of the top causes of cancer death in men.

Diagnostic tools, such as the PSA blood test, allow doctors to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. This means the number of men being diagnosed with low-grade (non-life threatening) prostate cancer has substantially increased. Many of these patients don’t yet require more invasive medical interventions, so these men are offered “active surveillance” – a practice where medical treatment is delayed until, if and when, the cancer progresses. Active surveillance allows patients to avoid overtreatment and the serious side effects of treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy.

But we asked ourselves: What if men could do something for themselves to slow the progression of their cancer, to manage the incredible anxiety while they wait, to better prepare for these treatments or better yet — avoid the need for the treatments altogether?

We believe the answer lies in exercise. It has shown to be a promising intervention in improving prognosis in some cancer patients. The way it stands, no studies have been done and not much information is available for prostate cancer patients on active surveillance about how exercise could play a very positive role, not only in the way they feel about their cancer, but also in the very progression of that cancer.

So we’re determined to generate some evidence on the role of exercise in slowing the growth of the cancer, managing anxiety, better preparing these men for the eventuality of radical treatments, and delaying or even eliminating the need for treatment. This study will include 66 men with prostate cancer who are currently on active surveillance.

Participants will be randomly allocated to either high-intensity interval aerobic exercise or usual care. We think HIIT may be a particularly effective type of exercise for these men.

If this intervention is successful, exercise could become an important component of active surveillance practice and men suffering prostate cancer may be referred to a supervised exercise program.

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