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HEALTH REPORT—August 6, 2003: Lance Armstrong/Fighting Cancer with Exercise - 2003-08-05

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

American bicycle racer Lance Armstrong says he will attempt to set a record next year and win the Tour de France for the sixth time. Last month he won the race for the fifth year in a row. Only one other person, Miguel Indurain of Spain, has ever done that.

For three weeks, Lance Armstrong raced more than three-thousand kilometers, up and down mountains and through the French countryside. He called this his most difficult year.

But each time he makes sports history, he also makes medical history. As many people know by now, Lance Armstrong is a survivor of cancer.

In 1997, doctors found cancer of the reproductive organs. The cancer had spread to his lungs and brain. Doctors removed the affected testicle and operated on his brain as well. Later, they treated him with anti-cancer drugs. These drugs were powerful but had dangers of their own.

Lance Armstrong says he survived because he had excellent doctors and because he truly believed he would get better. He also began to ride again as soon as his condition improved.

Doctors say other cancer patients might also improve with physical activity. A Canadian researcher recently published a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It shows that cancer patients who are physically active are less tired, have more energy and have improved chances of long-term survival.

This kind of research goes against the belief that cancer patients need a lot of rest. As a result, more doctors and patients are coming to believe that what is needed is exercise.

This will come as no surprise to Lance Armstrong. The thirty-one-year-old bicycle racer says it was his experience with cancer that really helped him win the Tour de France so many times. He says the disease tested him like nothing else could.

Lance Armstrong says he wants to be remembered not for just winning many bicycle races. He says he wants people to remember that the winner was a cancer survivor.

He says his victories send a message to all people who have ever had cancer. This message, he says, is that it is possible for them to return to what they were doing before -- and become even better.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.