EDINA, Minn. - Allina Health is doing for cancer patients what health systems have done for cardiac patients for decades.
The Twin Cities health system is including individualized exercise programs in cancer rehabilitation to improve overall patient survival.
It's called the Courage Kenny STAR Cancer Rehabilitation Program, and it offers a boost to anyone who has survived cancer and is living with the fear that it could come back.
"Once a woman has breast cancer, if she exercises moderately three to five hours of walking per week, she can reduce her risk of getting breast cancer again by about 25 to 40 percent," said Dr. Michaela Tsai, an oncologist with the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute.
Holly Flynn, 38, of Savage, not only had breast cancer diagnosed at the young age of 36, but she also gave birth during it.
The Courage Kenny STAR Cancer Rehabilitation Program first addressed her physical impairments.
"Then it started to get into, 'Oh, you're here to do your physical therapy for the day, but as long as you're here, let's do some core work,'" Flynn explained.
Now, her therapist at Courage Kenny Sports and Physical Therapy in Edina is helping her create a long-term exercise plan.
"They have to be able to go out of physical therapy equipped to take that out into the community and continue it to have that survivor advantage," said Dr. Nancy Hutchison, the medical director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Program for Allina Health.
Flynn said it's called survivorship training and that's a term she loves.
She smiled as she said, "So now I have my tools and I can go and utilize those, very empowering."
The program isn't just for those who have had breast cancer. Tsai said research shows exercise can improve survival rates for those with many kinds of cancer.
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