A Step Toward Healthier Cancer Survivorship

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A new UW Carbone Cancer Center clinical trial will provide breast and colorectal cancer survivors with fitness coaching and support.Patients who have been declared cancer-free often take survivorship one step at a time. Soon, some UW Health cancer survivors will start taking that advice literally.


A new UW Carbone Cancer Center clinical trial will provide breast and colorectal cancer survivors with fitness coaching and support, then monitor if that intervention translates into the higher activity levels shown to be beneficial to survivors.


Support for Healthy Changes


"Previous research has shown physical activity is very important for healthy cancer survivorship, but there are still many survivors who aren't active or who don't fully rebound to their pre-diagnosis level of activity," said Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at UW Carbone Cancer Center and the study leader. "The goal of this study is to try to integrate a physical activity promotion intervention into clinical care."


When a cancer patient completes treatment currently, they receive a survivorship plan that describes their previous therapies, a recommended schedule for follow-up visits and directions to exercise and eat a healthy diet. However, there is usually no follow-up support to patients to follow the exercise or eating guidelines.


"If someone has a heart attack, they receive cardiac rehab and diet recommendations, they are not just told to exercise and then left on their own," Cadmus-Bertram said. "Cancer survivorship doesn't really have the infrastructure to support ongoing behavioral health lifestyle changes – but it should."


Tracking Progress One Step at a Time 


Cancer survivors who enroll in the study first need to find a support partner, such as a spouse or friend, whose job is to motivate the survivor to be physically active. Then, enrollees will be randomly assigned to the control or experimental group. Patients in the control group receive standard follow-up care in addition to a survivorship plan, which will include behavioral tips designed to encourage participants without intimidating them and evidence that supports the importance of activity recommendations.


Patients assigned to the experimental group receive the same care as the control group, in addition to a Fitbit and regular coaching through email. Daily step count data will be automatically uploaded to a patient's MyChart account. During the 12 weeks each patient in the experimental group is on the trial, their physician will receive a notification every three weeks to view the step counts.


"This study, then, is also testing if clinicians look at the data, if it prompts them to have conversations with their patients that they wouldn't have otherwise, and if it is burdensome for them to use," Cadmus-Bertram said. "After a patient has completed the trial, we'll be asking the clinicians if they talked to their patients about the data and what those conversations looked like, and then we'll be asking the same of the patients."


Interested in Participating?

UW Health patients may contact their clinician or Dr. Cadmus-Bertram's lab:
bertramlab@education.wisc.edu or (608) 262-1167.

About the Clinical Trial


The trial, which will enroll 50 breast and colorectal cancer survivors, is funded by the UW's Institute for Clinical and Translational Research through their Clinical and Community Outcomes program.


Carbone Cancer Center members Amye Tevaarwerk, MD, Mary Sesto, PT, PhD, Evie Carchman, MD, and Ron Gangnon, PhD, are co-investigators on the trial. It is being conducted in partnership with UW Health and Epic Systems. Epic has developed the module that allows Fitbit data to be uploaded and UW Health completed the programming needed to turn on the module in MyChart. Community partners include Gilda’s Club of Madison and Breast Cancer Recovery.


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Date Published: 07/01/2016

News tag(s):  cancerresearchAdvances

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