Team sports helps breast cancer survivors

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Breast cancer survivors may find participation on a team that incorporates physical fitness, such as boating, walking or running, can help improve their quality of life, says a Purdue University sport and exercise psychologist.

"Many of these survivors' emotional, informational and social needs are met through traditional support groups or online groups," says Meghan McDonough, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology who studies the role relationships play in physical activity. "In addition, there are certainly some positive social and quality of life benefits associated with breast cancer survivors being active together and even competing in community events."

Women who have had breast cancer are not always looking for, or expecting benefits from, the social aspects of competing, but such camaraderie seems to improve their confidence and self-esteem about being a cancer survivor, says McDonough, who has studied breast cancer survivors in Canada who compete in canoe racing.

"Plus, realizing the ability to train, compete and reach a goal is considered very empowering for women who have experienced such a difficult time in their lives," she says. "Not only do they consider themselves survivors, but they also start to think of themselves as athletes and teammates."

Many women cancer survivors have been through a trying time - physically, emotionally and mentally - so exercise is not something they may be willing to embrace. McDonough suggests that these women may benefit from organizing a team to train and compete in a community event. Even if they cannot compete physically, they can help to organize or run such an event.

McDonough recommends patients speak with their physicians about appropriate physical activity during and after treatment.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 178,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Currently, there are more than 2 million women living in the United States who have been treated for breast cancer.

http://www.purdue.edu/

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