“Surgery-chemotherapy-radiation, followed by a different kind of triathlon”: medically directed group exercise program is unique and effective among overweight and obese breast cancer survivors


Aurora Comprehensive Breast Care Center, Aurora Cancer Care, Department of Physical Therapy and Cancer Rehabilitation

Presentation Notes

Presented at 2014 Aurora Scientific Day, Milwaukee, WI


Background: Structured exercise is a potential adjunct therapy following a cancer diagnosis associated with improvements in treatment-related side effects, including fatigue, deconditioning and quality of life. However, despite published exercise guidelines for cancer patients, breast cancer survivors struggle to initiate regular exercise into their lifestyles, particularly if already overweight or obese.

Purpose: To determine if a medically recommended and supervised team triathlon training program focusing on self-efficacy, observational learning and reinforcements improved exercise capacity and quality of life for overweight and obese (body mass index [BMI]: 25-40) breast cancer survivors.

Methods: A breast cancer surgeon and cancer rehabilitation physical therapist recruited 18 overweight to obese survivors [mean age: 52(7) years, mean BMI: 32(4)] who underwent local and systemic treatment to participate in a 14-week triathlon training program adjusted for common treatment- related side effects. Training consisted of 2 weekly group sessions supervised by medical and athletic coaches, and 3 days of prescribed activities that patients completed independently or with their peers. The program culminated in an organized sprint-distance triathlon. Quality of life (FACT-B), cancer-related fatigue (FACIT-F), and six-minute walk test (6MWT) were measured pre- and postintervention. Focus groups elucidated motivational factors.

Results: 14 patients with complete datasets were compared pre- and postintervention. FACT-B improved [pre: 120(11), post: 128(6); P=0.01]. FACIT-F improved [pre: 42(8), post: 47(5); PConclusion: Medically directed group training of overweight and obese breast cancer survivors with the goal of completing a sprint-distance triathlon is a unique and effective model addressing motivation, endurance and quality of life after treatment.

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