Cardio-Oncology: Cancer Treatment and Exercise

How to Exercise

Finding Help

Cancer really does change everything, but figuring out how to keep moving and incorporating exercise into your life is a vital part of recovery. By working with your health and exercise team, you can stay active without exposing yourself to unnecessary risks!

Speaking with your surgeon and medical/radiation oncologist are great ways to get informed about these risks. However, beyond safety issues, they may not know much about the best way to incorporate exercise into your life. 

**We also recommend seeking advice from, or working with, a cancer-experienced exercise specialist (for example clinical exercise physiologist, kinesiologist, physiotherapist) before initiating a new exercise program after a cancer diagnosis.  

How do you find someone who is qualified?  Exercise oncology is a relatively new area of expertise, so finding someone with the training and experience may not be easy. 

Here are a few tips/questions to aid in your search.

Look for cancer exercise programs near you. 

  • Are there any professional support services or organizations/cancer exercise programs in your area (e.g., LIVESTRONG at the YMCA)? As the awareness of the benefits of exercise for cancer patients and survivors grows, so too will the number of exercise support services in your community. Check out community centers, local gyms, and patient/survivor support services in your area to learn more about the services that may be available to you.

Seek the advice of a trained professional/specialist.

  • Take the time to get to know them and ask about their background and training. Don’t worry. Anyone with the right experience won’t take offense to being asked questions.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine has a specialized certification training course for professionals wanting to work with cancer patients/survivors. It’s called the Cancer Exercise Trainer Certification. Ask if the person has completed this training.
  • If not, ask if the person at least has an undergraduate/graduate degree in clinical exercise physiology, kinesiology, physiotherapy, or a related field of study.
  • Make sure you find out if the person has previous experience — or other specialized training — working with people with cancer. Do not be shy to ask for the details.

If there is a cost for the service or consultation, ask if the professional/specialist can provide a receipt for your insurance company.

  • If they can provide a receipt, it is also a good idea to check with your insurance provider to verify that it will accept the claim.

Ask if the professional/specialist has any professional liability insurance to work with cancer patients/survivors.

  • Liability insurance protects both the practitioner and yourself in the event that you become injured. 
  • This is especially important if you are seeking help privately from an individual practitioner and not through a larger non-profit or corporation.

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Published: September 2018
Authors: Scott C. Adams, PhD; Lee W. Jones, PhD; Jessica M. Scott, PhD
Medical Reviewers: Peggy Anthony; Jennifer Klemp; Bonnie Ky, MD, MSCE, FACC

These modules were developed in collaboration with the Eastern Cooperative Group—American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ECOG-ACRIN) Cardiotoxicity Working Group and Patient Advocacy Group.

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