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Life after breast cancer: Get stronger with exercise

  • Exercise is important for breast cancer survivors. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of cancer coming back by 30 percent.
  • Breast cancer survivors often develop treatment-related weight gain due to hormonal and metabolic changes.

Research shows that exercise is important to breast cancer survivors. Regular exercise can reduce your risk that cancer will recur by as much as 30 percent.

Tips to find a sport bra that works for you:

  • Look for a sports bra in a store that has a large selection.
  • Choose a time when you are not rushed, tired or busy so you have plenty of time to try on bras.
  • Opt for soft fabrics and designs that do not have seams that will touch your incision scars.
  • Look for wide, soft bands at the shoulder and under and around your breast and chest.
  • Look for a sports bra that is adjustable in the back, in case you have occasional swelling in your breast tissue.
  • Look for some contouring in the cup area to avoid smashing sensitive breast tissues.
  • If your skin is extremely sensitive, try wearing a tight-fitting camisole under your bra to help avoid rubbing your skin.

If you cannot find an appropriate bra at a department store, try specialty shops that specialize in mastectomy bras (search online for "mastectomy bras MN"). If you experience a lot of sensitivity and pain on scars or swelling in your breast, ask your doctor for a referral to a certified lymphedema therapist who specializes in treatment of fluid just beneath the skin. These specialists can help you find a solution that works.

Why is exercise so important for breast cancer survivors?

  • Exercise can lower your cancer risk. Doing 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise reduces your risk of breast cancer coming back by up to 30 percent.
  • Obesity is associated with a higher risk of cancer recurrence and exercise is a major contributor to weight control. 
  • Less severe side effects. Some types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy have side effects which impact your heart and lung tissue. Regular exercise can boost your endurance and help your heart and lungs work more efficiently.
  • Increase in self-esteem. Research show that exercise reduces stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression. You also might feel better about yourself and your appearance if you exercise regularly.
  • Better mobility. Weight lifting and upper body exercise may reduce your risk of developing arm lymphedema. Over time, careful stretching exercises can improve range of motion in your arm and shoulder.
  • Healthy bones. Breast cancer survivors are at risk for early and accelerated osteoporosis which can be reduced by weight-bearing exercise (walking) and strength training with weights.


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