Ovarian Cancer and Exercise

Thursday, 17th March 2022

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) would like to participate in the growing national ovarian cancer research effort in Australia, creating awareness, informing practice and translating into improved quality of life and survival for women, through exercise.

Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer.

Exercise is important for those diagnosed with cancer just as it is for those without cancer. However, a diagnosis of cancer and receiving treatment for cancer makes exercise before, during and after treatment even more important. Whilst there is limited evidence in ovarian cancer and exercise, we can apply what we have seen in other cancer populations.

Before treatment for cancer starts, exercise can help reduce subsequent treatment-related complications and enhance post-surgery recovery.

During treatment, exercise can minimise the number, duration and severity of side effects. AEPs can help with quality of life and are qualified to help, during and post treatment

Following treatment, exercise can improve the speed of recovery, aid in achieving a full recovery, and can prevent the development and/or improve the management of long-term side effects (e.g. fatigue or “chemo brain”). Also, exercise post-cancer can reduce risk of cancer returning or developing a new cancer, as well as reduce risk of other chronic disease including obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

We spoke to Georgia White, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) at Pear Exercise Physiology and also Improving Health Outcomes and People (ihop).

Georgia believes that “AEPs can improve quality of life for cancer patients and are qualified to help with rehab both during and after treatments.”

At Pear, the team’s expertise is on understanding changes in women’s bodies at all stages of life and at ihop, their programs are dedicated to undertaking quality research and education that will ultimately improve lives and reduce health disparities in Australia and worldwide. Both organisations having current programs and research trials in ovarian cancer.

“At Pear, we work closely with a patient’s oncologist, with a majority of exercise initially focusing on restoring pelvic floor strength after major surgery and managing side effects with chemo.” Georgia described further.

“There is a stereotype that once an individual completes their treatment, that's it and they are all done. Unfortunately, research shows side effects from treatment that can linger for years afterwards and there is a risk of developing late medical effects up to 20 years afterwards. AEPs assist in this rehab gap in the oncology world.”

It is important to note that everyone is different in terms of level of exercise and speed of recovery. Georgia explained that “Every patient's exercise history, goals and cancer diagnosis is different, so each patient's program is tailored to the individual.”

“We first aim to have a patient go back to simple things in their life like getting out of a chair, doing chores or playing with kids. Some of our patients long term goals are returning to work or even running a marathon!”

Georgia also shared that “Patients are often receptive to exercise as part of their plan to recovery because a lot of the time people don't even know it's an option and it doesn’t have some of the more taxing side effects compared to other options.”

AEPs are another form of support for people going through ovarian cancer and could be a big part of a person’s journey. ESSA encourages patients to explore exercise options that they enjoy or that are optimal for achieving individual goals.

For more information, ESSA has created an eBook, Exercise and Cancer, which provides an overview of the critical role Accredited Exercise Physiologists play in the care team of people with cancer.


All media enquiries can be directed to media@essa.org.au.