News in brief: Hypoalgesia possible with low intensity exercise; Patient communication suffers if physicians can’t mentally multitask; More data required on fasting for cancer outcomes 

Hypoalgesia possible with low intensity exercise

Low-intensity exercise training may be a feasible option to increase pain thresholds in cancer survivors, Australian research suggests.

A Sydney study comprised 20 patients randomised to low- (30%–40% Heart Rate Reserve) or high- (60%–70% HRR) intensity stationary cycling for 15–20 min for two weeks.

The study assessed pressure pain thresholds over the rectus femoris and biceps brachii before and after a single exercise session and again after a short training period at the assigned intensity.

High intensity exercise resulted in greater reductions in pain perception after the first exercise session than low-intensity exercise but after a 2-week training period, there was no significant difference in exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH) between the two groups.

“This novel finding suggests that, while acute EIH may be initially greater with high-intensity exercise, short-term exercise at low intensity can ultimately elicit a similar hypoalgesic response after only a few weeks.”

“This could have significant implications for cancer survivors who are often unable to engage in higher intensity exercise due to barriers such as pain and fatigue.”

Read more in Physiological Reports

Patient communication suffers if physicians can’t mentally multitask

Patient communication tends to be less satisfactory in specialties in which physicians must use diagnostic reasoning during patient encounters, an Australian study has found.

Physicians have more ‘cognitive busyness’ and must mentally multitask more than specialists such as surgeons whose encounters are more focused on procedures, according to according to Queensland researchers who analysed communication ratings for 67 doctors across various specialties.

They said their findings suggested that patient communication may be relegated to a secondary task and the news of an adverse finding may be less well accepted from physicians than from a procedural specialist who was not distracted by cognitive multitasking.

Possible solutions included having separate consultations for making and conveying a diagnosis or taking a break during a consultation before delivering the diagnosis, they suggested in Internal Medicine Journal.

Intermittent fasting for cancer outcomes: more data required

Intermittent fasting (IF) may be useful in the primary prevention of some cancers for people who are overweight or obese but it cannot be recommended yet for the treatment of cancer, an Australian researcher says.

Dr Luigi Fontana of the Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney University co-authored a review of the evidence that found evidence that intermittent fasting such as the 5:2 diet could improve some cancer risk factors including fasting glucose, insulin, and leptin levels in the short term. However long-term data for cancer prevention was lacking.

The authors said there was some evidence that fasting in patients with cancer was safe, feasible and reduced toxicities associated with chemotherapy however there was little evidence of the use of fasting as an adjunctive treatment to cancer treatment.

“Despite the knowledge gaps and challenges surrounding changing human dietary patterns, IF remains an attractive modality to explore in a research setting, especially when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, because it is associated with minimal side effects, is affordable, and likely exerts its effects in a tumour-agnostic fashion.”

They said fasting might have potential benefits for other cardiometabolic conditions common in cancer survivors such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.

Read more in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians


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