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Sometimes cancer treatment means taking a break from sports and other activities.
In some cases, you can return after treatment. In other cases, it might be time to start something new.
Therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and bone marrow transplant help treat cancer. But they can cause changes in your body. It may take some time to adjust.
Resuming or starting new activities looks a little different for each person. There aren’t general guidelines about returning to physical activities after cancer. Scientists continue to study the effects of exercise and play after cancer treatment.
Being physically active is possible. But you may benefit from attending rehabilitation or individual sports classes rather than general group ones. Talk to your care team about safe ways you can return to sports or other physical activities.
Nick discusses his diagnosis, what life was like during treatment, and how it felt to get back to school and basketball.
Here are things to talk about with your care team:
The effects of cancer treatment depend on the type of therapy.
Treatments may affect fitness, endurance, and balance. It’s important to know your limits and take them into account.
Benefits may vary based on the type and stage of cancer, treatment, or earlier physical activity levels.
Benefits may include:
You may feel limited by your health or performance in a particular sport. But be as active as possible.
Children and teens continue to grow and develop physically and mentally. Through age 11 or so, they develop skills that involve whole body movement. These skills include running, skipping, and climbing. Treatment and the age at diagnosis can affect development.
Children learn how to move their bodies and coordinate movement. This builds the foundation for more specialized skills needed for individual sports.
During the pre-teen or teen years, children go through a growth spurt. This occurs between ages 10–12 years for girls and 12–14 years for boys.
Children and teens may be less coordinated and forget how to move. They can be more prone to injury.
Before returning to sports, it’s important to understand how to decrease risk of injury.
Here are some ways to decrease your risk of injury:
As children mature, they can begin more sport-specific tasks.
Make sure to:
Current research suggests most children and teens can safely return to physical education classes and sports. Studies show that:
A physical therapist can help you with endurance, coordination, strength, and balance.
Talk with your care provider and set goals for activity. Be safe. Be smart. Know that being active is possible.
Learn more about studies about physical exercise during and after treatment:
Reviewed: February 2022