Think pink, support the girls! Breast Cancer and Exercise

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in Australia. The breasts are made up of lobules and ducts surrounded by fatty and connective tissue. Close to the breasts are lymph nodes that are part of the lymphatic system which help to protect the body from infection. The axillary nodes (or armpit) are the closest to the breast. There are also lymph nodes under the breastbone (internal mammary nodes) and in the neck (supraclavicular nodes). Breast cancer develops in the lobules or ducts of the breast. Cancer cells can stay in the lobules or ducts of the breast or can spread into the surrounding tissue. Sometimes, breast cancer cells can travel in the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body such as the bones or liver.

Did you know?

“In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer”1

It’s not just the women! Although female gender is the strongest breast cancer risk factor, approximately 0.5-1% of breast cancers occur in men globally. Treatment of breast cancer in men follows the same principles as for women1

The Benefits of Exercise for Breast Cancer

Research indicates that incorporating regular exercise during and after breast cancer treatment can:

  • improve fatigue,
  • Improved mental health,
  • Improved cardiovascular health,
  • Improved respiratory health,
  • Improved strength,
  • Improved sleep,
  • and weight management3

Exercise can begin at any point throughout or after breast cancer therapy2. It is never too late to start. Instead of exercising too much or too intensively when you first start. It is crucial to start gently and build up to the appropriate amount of activity2. Evidence suggests that exercise may also lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence2. A recent study suggested that regular exercise may lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence by as much as 24%2. It is advised that women with breast cancer engage in at least two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise each week, the same amount of exercise as is advised for all Australian adults2. Exercise for 30 minutes five days a week will assist in accomplishing this2.

It is crucial for all allied health professionals working with individuals with or recovering from breast cancer to be aware of the advantages of exercise and to motivate their patients to increase their physical activity to enhance their overall health and wellbeing3. If you or you know someone who needs some guidance, contact your local Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist.


  1. Breast cancer. (2022). Retrieved 11 August 2022, from
  2. Exercise and Breast Cancer. (2014). Retrieved 11 August 2022, from
  3. Kirshbaum, M. (2007). A review of the benefits of whole-body exercise during and after treatment for breast cancer. Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 16(1), 104-121.