Exercise proves effective for prostate cancer patients

Dr Teresa Lam (centre) has been awarded for her endocrinology research project studying men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Picture: Hormones Australia

A simple at-home exercise program is improving quality of life for men recovering from Australia’s most common cancer.

A study led by Blacktown Hospital endocrinologist and PhD student Dr Teresa Lam found that the exercise program helped reduce the side effects of hormone therapy, which is used to treat prostate cancer.

The home-based exercise program utilised progressive resistance training to combat the loss of strength and stamina often caused by cancer treatment.

Progressive resistance training involves challenging the muscles with unaccustomed and increasingly heavier loads.

Dr Lam was recently honoured for her findings, receiving the Bryan Hudson Clinical Endocrinology Award for the best clinical research presentation at the annual scientific meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia.

“We found 20 men who were undergoing treatment for prostate cancer at Blacktown Hospital and monitored their exercise participation throughout a year,” Dr Lam said.

“What we found is the people who joined the exercise program feel better and have better outcomes after each follow-up appointment.  They also retain more muscle mass which otherwise may decline with hormone treatment.

“We also put a lot of focus on mental health, and the positive effects that exercise had on their general wellbeing and state of mind.”

Dr Lam’s research proves that this exercise program has specific physical and mental health benefits for patients.

Dr Lam said changes in the body which occur with hormone therapy were also prevented by engaging in physical activity.

Physiotherapist Gerard Regan, together with radiation oncologist Dr Amy Hayden who was also part of the study by Dr Lam, has subsequently set up a similar exercise program for patients with prostate cancer at Westmead Hospital. 

The program called The X-men – Exercise classes for prostate cancer was the winner of the Keeping People Healthy category at the 2018 WSLHD Quality awards.  

“This program was initiated at a similar time to Dr Lam’s clinical trial, and her research has helped to confirm the benefits of exercise for men with prostate cancer,” Dr Hayden said.

“Dr Lam’s study shows significant benefits of exercise in improving patient’s physical and mental health, as well as improving quality of life. 

“I recommend this program for patients with prostate cancer, particularly for those who are being treated with hormone therapy.”

Dr Lam thanked her PhD supervisors Dr Vita Birzniece and Prof Mark McLean.