Friday, May 28, 2010

Dr. Kathryn Schmitz impressed with new yoga study

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is hosting its annual meeting in one week. Over 30,000 clinicians will be in attendance at the annual meeting responding to and offering information as it relates to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. LBBC caught up with Dr. Kathryn Schmitz who was invited to speak at the meeting. She will be presenting guidelines for exercise testing and prescription for all cancer patients based on an expert panel brought together by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“Doctors are concerned about doing the best they can for their patients. There was a time, not so many decades ago, when cancer patients didn’t live as long as they do now, so doctors were teaching ‘take it easy,’ says Dr. Kathryn Schmitz as she discusses why most doctors don’t associate exercise with being the best option for cancer patients.

Dr. Schmitz conducts research that is based on the findings of the benefits of physical activity. While she targets those who suffer from obesity, she also has extended research to women affected by breast cancer as well. She supports a new study that ASCO released that shows evidence that yoga may help cancer patients with treatment side effects.

Dr. Schmitz is impressed with the way Dr. Karen Mustian went about conducting the yoga benefits study. “What’s lovely about this study is that Karen went through the oncologists. The challenge with dealing with cancer patients is getting clinicians involved…the oncologists have to know that it’s safe,” said Dr. Schmitz. “Until we provide information to physicians that women want this, women benefit from this and women will not be harmed, nothing will change,” she says.

Dr. Mustian was the lead author in a study that revealed that yoga had sustainable benefits on sleep quality, fatigue, and overall quality of life in cancer survivors. A total of 96% of the participants of the study were women and 75% of them had breast cancer.

“People [cancer patients] are living, and for a long time, particularly breast cancer patients. It turns out the talk of ‘take it easy’ is associated with worse risk than exercise itself. In my opinion, [doctors] should stop recommending patients avoid exercise,” says Dr. Schmitz. Primarily, doctors rely on medication to assist their patients with side effects of treatment and are more reluctant to “prescribe” exercise.

According to Dr. Schmitz, doctors don’t have time to investigate and encourage their patients to explore the benefits of exercise. “Women are talking to their doctors about arm pain, scar pain, side effects, and the best ways to prevent recurrence. By the time they are done with all of what is on their agenda, the allotted time for the appointment is over or even long past. And then Doctor’s are supposed to say ‘oh, there’s an exercise program you can do?’ There just isn’t enough time,” she said.

Financial issues also factor in when doctors consider suggesting exercise programs to their patients. “Cancer patients are tapped out financially. The financial burden of cancer treatment creates stress, and on top of that, many patients have taken as much time off as they are allotted at work. On top of that, they have to PAY for yoga classes? Cost can be a real barrier,” said Dr. Schmitz.

Dr. Schmitz and a team at the University of Pennsylvania are looking into disseminating an at-home yoga work-out video for breast cancer survivors as a way to assist with the high out-of-pocket costs for those undergoing treatment.

Dr. Schmitz herself has been practicing yoga since she was in elementary school. “People who have been doing it for the longest are the least likely to say they’re good at it, including me. I’m really still just a beginner,” she ends.

Dr. Schmitz has heard from people across the world who are pleased with the programs that LBBC provides. She has even offered to help LBBC promote more physical activity programs on a day to day basis for women affected by breast cancer.

To hear about the latest findings revealed at ASCO’s annual meeting, register for LBBC’s teleconference scheduled for June 11th: Breaking News from ASCO.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you suffering from fatigue after treatment? Talk to your doctor about practicing yoga at your local yoga studio and about any other options that may assist with treatment side effects. Tell us what your doctor suggested on our facebook page.

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