Exercising control of ovarian cancer recovery

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Ovarian cancer patients who do regular exercise that makes them sweat are less likely to be bothered by menopausal symptoms and report having a better quality of life, research by Mater Research in partnership with The University of Queensland shows.

February 24th is Teal Ribbon Day which aims to raise awareness and support for Australians affected by ovarian cancer and to honour those who have died from the disease.

Leader of Mater Research-UQ’s Living Well with Cancer Group, Professor Sandie McCarthy said more than 1700 women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and the disease takes a toll,

“Patients who undergo chemotherapy or surgical treatments often experience early menopause, with all the associated negative side effects, along with the many physical complications of gynaecological surgery such as loss of bladder control,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Our research shows embracing the power of exercise appears to improve these women’s recovery and minimises side effects.”

Professor McCarthy is currently running the ACUMEN study through UQ’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, which is investigating the effects of supervised physical activity for women who have had gynaecological cancer treatment in the past.

The study participants take part in a tailored 12-week exercise program that has been developed at Mater Research and The University of Queensland. The exercise program is delivered by highly trained exercise physiologists who specialise in cancer care. 

“Our research shows women who undergo regular exercise are more likely to build physical activity into their lives going forward. It also greatly modifies the risk of developing treatment-related side effects in the longer term, such as diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and osteoporosis,” Professor McCarthy said.

“While the general benefits of exercise are well known, there is also growing evidence that it can act as a preventative tool against cancer and possibly reduce the risk of ovarian cancer reoccurring.”

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers affecting women, with one woman dying every eight hours of the disease in Australia. It affects women of all ages, but the risk increases with age.

Mater is the leading research and treatment centre for ovarian cancer in the country, with Mater’s researchers and specialists continuing to progress diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes for patients.

The trial is open to women with any gynaecological cancer who completed their intensive treatment (chemotherapy, surgery, or radiotherapy) more than a month ago.

For more information on how to join the trial contact: acumen@uq.edu.au.