For the uninitiated, TED is a nonprofit organisation founded from a conference in California 26 years ago. Purposed with supporting and spreading world-changing ideas, TED talks are a bit of a big deal. TED ‘x’ is an independently organised TED event, and TEDxPerth aims to celebrate and raise the intellectual ambition and culture of Western Australia through showcasing remarkable and thought-provoking people and ideas.
Associate Professor Cormie's presentation draws upon a rapidly growing body of exercise and oncology research to posit that exercise should be part of a doctor’s prescription toolkit.
Sixteen people per minute worldwide die of cancer, including 125 people per day in Australia. Cancer affects many older adults, with one in two men and one in three women likely to be diagnosed by their 85th birthday. Associate Professor Cormie talks about the heavy-duty treatments doctors use to treat cancer, and the horrible side effects that can include nausea, hair and weight loss, increased susceptibility to infection and also depression and loss of sexual desire. "Treatments are extreme as cancer is hard to kill and doctors have to balance killing the patient’s cancer and killing their quality of life."
But what if there was a medicine that could do both? Associate Professor Cormie outlines how preliminary research has shown that exercise may extend survival of cancer, by enhancing our ability to physically tolerate more treatments. It may also improve the effectiveness of these treatments, allowing more drugs and natural defence mechanisms to attack the disease.
Whilst claims along these lines are cautious, there is strong evidence that supports that exercise as medicine reduces fatigue, enhances physical function and improves sexual desire. Exercise can also improve mental and social wellbeing, giving people a positive purpose and practical means for being actively involved in their fight against cancer.
Associate Professor Cormie contends that where the potential of exercise to extend survival is coupled with the clear benefits to a patient’s quality of life, there is a resounding argument to be made for exercise being incorporated into every cancer patients’ treatment. "Hospitals should be employing Exercise Physiologists to give expert advice and dedicating space to exercise facilities. Instead of sitting in waiting rooms patients could be exercising before their chemotherapy or after their radiation treatment and this is starting to happen…"