Oncology nurses see patients receiving chemotherapy on a regular basis, often over lengthy periods of time. This puts nurses into an ideal position to educate and empower their patients around how to manage their illness.
Exercise has proven physiological and psychological benefits when undertaken regularly and with appropriate guidance.
Lifehouse Day Therapy Unit nurse Rebecca Paul has published a paper in the Australian Journal of Cancer Nursing identifying the benefits for patients receiving chemotherapy, types of exercise to recommend, potential barriers to patient compliance, information about exercise practitioners, and considerations and contraindications.
The paper offers guidance for nurses to help them differentiate between the types of exercise and the benefits they offer, as well as factors to consider to identifying patients that are suitable for exercise interventions.
Factors to consider include:
- type of chemotherapy
- presence of a central venous access device or chemotherapy pump
- location of disease and affected organs
- other comorbidities
- level of previous exercise participation
Rebecca outlines the benefits of exercise for chemotherapy patients, including reduced nausea, fatigue and depression and improved body strength and quality of life. Resistance-based exercise can improve posture and help to relieve joint or bone pain. Weight training contributes to improving or maintaining bone density and stretching can provide a time for patients to relax and reflect on events.
Some of the barriers to exercise intervention might be social norms, current level of exercise, physical restrictions and cultural or personal beliefs.
Oncology nurses wishing to get the full picture around the recommendation of exercise interventions to chemotherapy patients can find the paper in the Australian Journal of Cancer Nursing, Volume 18 Number 1, June 2017.