Haematological Cancers

One in 10 Australians diagnosed with cancer will have a blood cancer – Leukaemia Foundation

Exercise in Haematological Cancers

Exercise is beneficial for people with a haematological malignancy (blood cancer). Common blood cancers include multiple myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia. 

People with haematological cancers may undergo long and complex treatments including:

  • High-dose chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Bone Marrow or Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant

Exercise is safe and beneficial at all stages, before during and after treatment.

There is emerging research exercise may be particularly beneficial in preparing people for stem cell transplant so they recover faster after stem cell transplant. Patients may receive an Allograft (stem cells derived from a family member or unrelated donor) or an Autograft (self). People may spend up to 4 days less in hospital after stem cell transplant if they exercise prior to the procedure.  

Other benefits of exercise for people with blood cancer include:

 – reduced fatigue

– improved well-being

– weight management

Aim for 3x 30 minutes of exercise per week, building to 150 minutes per week 

  • Individuals with haematological cancer should be encouraged to be as physically active as possible.  They may need to start small and build up gradually due to fatigue resulting from their treatment.
  • Monitor vital signs before and during exercise. Immunocompromise, anaemia and low blood pressure are common in this population. Ensure their bloodwork falls within safe parameters prior to exercise. You may need to discuss participation with the treating haematologist, particularly if levels are chronically low. 
  • To limit infection risk, good hand hygiene and infection control is paramount. Patients may also need to limit gardening activities and pollution and wear a mask due to the risk of airborne particle transmission
  • People with haematological cancer may have bone lesions. Ensure these are stable prior to exercise participation and avoid heavy loads, impact exercise (eg. Jogging, tennis, golf) and extreme range of motion at the site of the lesion as this increases the risk of compression and pathological fracture.
  • Peripheral neuropathy is also common in this population due to high dose chemotherapies. Incorporation of balance exercise to reduce falls risk may be required. Range of motion, stretching and sensory exercise of hands and feet may also be useful to manage neuropathic pain.