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Exercise Can Help Patients Manage Mesothelioma Symptoms

Fatigue, poor sleep, and reduced appetite are common complaints among people undergoing treatment for malignant mesothelioma. But new guidelines from Australia suggest that there is a powerful, natural way to address many of these problems: exercise.

In an official position statement published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the country’s Clinical Oncology Society encourages cancer patients and their doctors to see physical  exercise as a vital part of staying healthy and managing symptoms during treatment.

In the COSA statement, the authors point to the significant amount of clinical research showing that exercise is “a safe and effective intervention to counteract the adverse physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment.”

The authors say the intention of the statement is to provide guidance to healthcare professionals, including those working with people who have rare cancers such as malignant mesothelioma.

Exercise Should be “Embedded” in Cancer Care

Among the things COSA recommends is that exercise be “embedded” as a standard part of care for people with cancer. They point to a number of reasons for the recommendation.

Scientists now know the the immune system plays a crucial role in both developing and combating mesothelioma and other malignancies. Exercise helps to strengthen the immune system and may give the body more of what it needs to fight mesothelioma and to handle the side effects of mesothelioma treatment.

In addition, exercise can help to boost flagging energy, ward off depression, and stimulate appetite – all of which are common issues for people dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis.

How Much Should Mesothelioma Patients Exercise?

Under the new COSA guidelines, with their doctor’s OK, mesothelioma patients should aim for at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and two to three moderate intensity resistance exercise sessions each week.

COSA says it is now “best practice cancer care” for doctors to refer all patients to an exercise physiologist or physical therapist to help them implement and stick with a cancer-friendly exercise program.

In the US, the American Cancer Society suggests that exercise can also reduce treatment-associated nausea and help keep people with mesothelioma and other types of cancer from isolating themselves.

Australia was once of the world’s top producers of asbestos and now has one of the highest per capita rates of malignant mesothelioma in the world. It is also the site of some of the most cutting-edge mesothelioma research.


Cormie, P, et al, “Clinical Oncology Society of Australia position statement on exercise in cancer care”, May 7, 2018, The Medical Journal of Australia, Epub ahead of print

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