Purpose: Physical exercise has been shown to help cancer survivors cope with treatment side effects. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the oncologist in promoting exercise in cancer survivors.
Description of study: Cancer survivors who had recently completed treatment (N = 311) were mailed a self-administered questionnaire that assessed the following: whether exercise was discussed during any of their treatment consultations; whether they preferred that exercise be discussed during this time; their perceived oncologist approval for exercise; and the amount of exercise they performed during treatment.
Results: Descriptive statistics showed that 28.4% of cancer survivors reported that their oncologist initiated a discussion of exercise during their treatment consultation, that 13.9% said that they initiated a discussion, and that 57.8% said that exercise was not discussed. Survivors younger than 60 years of age were more likely to initiate a discussion of exercise than were older survivors. Survivors whose oncologist initiated a discussion of exercise also reported a stronger normative belief for exercise, performing more frequent exercise during treatment, and performing more total minutes of exercise during treatment. Most (82.2%) survivors preferred that the oncologist initiate the discussion of exercise.
Clinical implications: These findings indicate that most cancer survivors responding to this survey preferred that their oncologist initiate a discussion of exercise. Such a discussion appears to increase survivor exercise levels during treatment. If confirmed in a prospective, randomized, controlled trial, the implication is that an oncologist-initiated discussion of exercise during treatment consultations may be a cost-effective strategy for promoting exercise in cancer survivors.