Moderate Exercise Can Help You Survive Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
The first thing most patients ask when they learn they have cancer is “how long will I live?” Advances in cancer treatment have made the answer to this question much more positive in recent years. The five-year survival rate for someone with stage I colorectal cancer, the earliest stage of the disease, is about 92 percent. This means that 92 out of 100 people diagnosed with this stage of the disease will still be alive after five years.
Where things get a little more difficult is when you have metastatic colorectal cancer, also called stage IV colorectal cancer. In these cases, the cancer has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver or the lungs. Five-year survival rates are much lower, which is why early detection through colorectal cancer screenings are so important for successful treatment.
However, even if you have advanced colorectal cancer, there’s good reason to keep hope alive. A new study shows that moderate exercise, in conjunction with other forms of treatment like chemotherapy, is helping patients improve their chances for survival and help them to live longer, healthier lives.
What the Study Shows
Exercise is an important part of life for many different reasons – it helps you maintain your weight, keep your heart healthy and prevent diseases such as diabetes. It’s also proven to be an important tool in fighting metastatic colorectal cancer.
Doctors studying patients with metastatic colon cancer found that patients who performed non-vigorous physical activity for four hours per week improved their survival rates by 20 percent. Adding another hour of non-vigorous activity per week improved survival rates to 25 percent.
The duration of the exercise, not the intensity, was the important part. Walking slowly on a treadmill for about 30 minutes per day was enough to make a big difference in survival rates.
The results of this study are consistent with other studies that show people who exercised regularly before their colorectal cancer diagnosis have better survival rates. Exercise – before and after your diagnosis – truly is one of the key ingredients in a successful treatment plan.
What to Look Out For
People who have an average risk for colorectal cancer should start screening for the disease at 50 years old. If you have a family history of the disease or other risk factors, you should start earlier. Ask your doctor for his recommendation.
In addition, keep an eye out for symptoms that may indicate you have colorectal cancer. The common symptoms include:
- Changes in your bowel habits, such going more frequently, thinner stools or feeling like your bowels are not emptying completely.
- Blood in your stool or dark, tar-like stools.
- Reduced appetite.
- Stomach pain, gas pains, cramps and a feeling of being too full.
- Unexpected weight loss.
- Unusual and persistent fatigue.
Unfortunately, some people don’t have any symptoms of colorectal cancer, which is another reason why regular screenings are important as you age.
Make a commitment to increasing the amount your exercise – getting off the couch will help improve your health in many different ways and may just be the key to preventing and surviving diseases such as colorectal cancer.