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National Cancer Institute

Discussant

Anna Schwartz, F.N.P., Ph.D., FAAN
Arizona State University
Cave Creek AZ

Dr. Schwartz is a two-time survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

  • As a 24-year-old nursing student diagnosed with NHL, Dr. Schwartz found that her studies helped to distract her from some of the anxiety surrounding her cancer treatment, as did physical activity. A natural athlete, Dr. Schwartz took up competitive bicycle racing and set three world records; physical activity helped resolve her depression and weight gain that had occurred over the course of her treatment. Working in a bone marrow transplant unit, Dr. Schwartz observed that patients who performed some level of physical activity had reduced levels of suffering, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and anxiety than patients who did not participate in physical activities. This led her to pursue a doctoral degree to study the impact of exercise on cancer patients at a time when most physicians were afraid to let patients exercise.
  • During a recurrence of NHL, Dr. Schwartz continued to pursue her studies and participate in physical activities. She learned that although exercise had the power to improve a patient's perspective and outlook on life, many patients need extra support and guidance in learning to exercise and staying with a regular exercise program. Physicians also need education regarding physical activity and cancer patients. Many highly active women have been told by their doctors to stop exercising after a cancer diagnosis; this can be devastating to these women and may be unnecessary. Research on physical activity should explore the needs of highly active women and the effects of maintaining high levels of activity after a cancer diagnosis.

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