Moving beyond cancer
By Steven Powell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1923
There’s nothing easy about surviving cancer, but hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. do it every year now. And when a former patient is handed a cancer-free diagnosis, a question doctors frequently hear is, “What can I do now?”
The prescriptive chorus these days is to get moving, says Bernardine Pinto, a professor and associate dean for research in the College of Nursing. “Exercise has been shown to improve people’s physical functioning, their mood, their sense of vigor, and it helps them recover from some of the effects of the treatment,” she says. “Research has also suggested that exercise may help improve survival of cancer survivors.”
Exercise is well and good, but many people have trouble getting even a modest dose of it. And that’s particularly true of cancer survivors, Pinto says, who typically emerge as survivors after a physically grueling treatment ordeal. For several years now, she has been researching how to get cancer survivors moving again.
Motivation is key, and in Pinto's upcoming study, dubbed Moving Forward Together 3, she will put breast cancer survivors in touch with people eminently qualified to understand them well: fellow breast cancer survivors. To achieve that end, she has partnered with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery (RTR) program, whose volunteers are breast cancer survivors.
The research study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, will be broken into three parts. In the first phase, the team will recruit and train RTR volunteers to deliver a home-based exercise program. In the second phase, the RTR coach/mentor will be paired with a breast cancer survivor and will offer a 12-week home-based exercise program (primarily, brisk walking) through weekly telephone calls.
Exercise has been shown to improve people’s physical functioning, their mood, their sense of vigor, and it helps them recover from some of the effects of the treatment.
Bernardine Pinto, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Nursing
That part of the program has already seen success. Pinto led two studies in Rhode Island before coming to South Carolina in 2014, and the early results showed how effective having a “telephone mentor” was in getting cancer survivors on an exercise regimen.
“They were really pleased with the help they got,” Pinto says. “They enjoy talking to somebody who has been through an experience like theirs, and start helping them to become active. I think having survivors as coaches helps, because they can relate to the patients in a different way because they themselves have been there.”
In Moving Together Forward 3, Pinto and her research team look to move beyond that 12-week success period, with a six-month follow-up aimed at helping survivors maintain their exercise routine. In this third phase of the study, they're trying different ways of keeping in touch with the survivors — involving combinations of exercise logs and contacts through text, email and phone — and the randomized trial will assess which method is the most effective.
For Pinto, who is currently recruiting and training coaches and will soon begin finding breast cancer survivors to participate in the study, it’s all about translating research into personal success for survivors.
“The research shows how exercise can help cancer survivors with quality of life,” she says, “and in this partnership with the American Cancer Society, we hope to show how community-based organizations will be able to implement our home-based exercise program and help survivors become and stay physically active.”
For further information about the research study, email Kimberly Rawlinson or call 803-777-7608.
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