Breast cancer survivors see higher rate of sleep disorders

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The bad news: one in eight women in the U.S. will hear the words, 'you have breast cancer' at some point in her lifetime. The good news: the five-year survival rate is increasing. However, for women who beat breast cancer, many face another problem. But researchers have found one simple solution.

Rebecca DiPiazza was just starting her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24.

"I was very young. It was definitely not on my trajectory," said DiPiazza.

She beat it, but it took a lot: a partial mastectomy, a lumpectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy for a year. Even then, there was more.

"I was struggling with sleep, with concentration. I often had to take medication to fall asleep at night," explained DiPiazza.

"We estimate that over a million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. are suffering from sleep disturbances or sleep dysfunction," said Dr. Laura Rogers, MPH at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

To see if exercise can help sleep quality, researchers at UAB had 222 breast cancer survivors volunteer, where some women worked out at least two and a half hours a week.  For those women: "There was a clinically significant improvement in self-reported sleep quality," explained Dr. Rogers.

Rebecca agrees. It took her about two hours to fall asleep before the trial, but after the trial she: "Could normally fall asleep within 30 minutes," DiPiazza told Ivanhoe.

Besides getting a better night's sleep, Rebecca says she regained something else from the trial.

"It was an opportunity for me to take control of something. As a cancer survivor, you often feel a loss of control when you're going through treatment," said DiPiazza.

Dr. Rogers says having cancer treatment may change certain behaviors, such as making a person more tired so they take more naps during the day and then don't sleep well at night.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Katie Campbell, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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