In light of reports suggesting exercise and diet may alleviate the side effects of radiation therapy, radiation oncologist and cancer researcher Carmen Bergom, MD, PhD, has partnered with Melinda Stolley, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin associate director of public health, to investigate the impact of exercise and diet on breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society and Kohl’s Healthy Families, the study hopes to attract 60 participants over the next two years. Half of them will receive an exercise and diet intervention, while the other half continues with standard care. Utilizing blood tests and body composition scans, Dr. Bergom will assess whether one group has fewer side effects, improved inflammatory profiles and/or increased lean body mass.

How the Study Works

To encourage physical activity, participants in the 12-week intervention are given a personal fitness tracker and provided three resistance exercise sessions with a Wisconsin Athletic Club trainer.

“There is data that resistance exercises can help cancer survivors increase their lean muscle mass,” Dr. Bergom said.

“And patients get a text message several times a week to remind them to reach their fitness goals for the day.” Patients also have sessions with a dietitian to help guide their food choices, such as consuming the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables and decreasing red meat intake.

The study results will shed light on the effects of exercise and diet in mitigating the side effects of radiation therapy and may add to an even broader understanding of cancer. “Healthy lifestyle habits may help patients feel better throughout their treatment and may also be helpful in reducing the likelihood of recurrence,” she said.

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