Physical activity intervention for young cancer survivors

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): Sheri Hartman, PhD -
Award Cycle: 2018 (Cycle 24) Grant #: 24AB-1300 Award: $108,513
Award Type: CRC Pilot Award
Research Priorities
Community Impact of Breast Cancer>Sociocultural, Behavioral, and Psychological Issues: the human side
Community Impact of Breast Cancer>Sociocultural, Behavioral, and Psychological Issues: the human side

Initial Award Abstract (2018)

Introduction: The purpose of this study is to explore the benefits of physical activity for young breast cancer survivors between the ages of 18-49. Young breast cancer survivors often have many negative effects from their cancer treatments at a time when they are just beginning their adult lives. Compared to older breast cancer survivors, they have a greater chance of cancer recurrence, sexual dysfunction, depression, fatigue, low self-esteem, and negative thoughts about their body. Haus of Volta, and its founder Stori Nagel, noticed that physical activity was helpful for herself and many other young breast cancer survivors in readjusting to life after cancer treatments. Haus of Volta is interested in learning whether being physical active could help any of the common complaints among young survivors, and how to help fellow young breast cancer survivors be more active.

Question(s) or hypotheses: We hypothesize that being physically active and being connected to other survivors could greatly improve many symptoms young survivors experience. We want to answer these questions: 1) is increasing physical activity helpful for young breast cancer survivors’ quality of life, and 2) how can young breast cancer survivors support each other to be more physically active?

General methodology: First, we will train 4 young breast cancer survivors to be peer mentors for the physical activity intervention. Second, we will enroll 20 breast cancer survivors (under age of 50, greater than 6 months out of treatment, and currently not active) into a 12-week physical activity program. The program includes a Fitbit and associated apps to encourage and track physical activity, and peer support through an online message board and regular phone/video calls. Each participant will receive tailored support from a trained peer mentor. At the start of the intervention and twelve weeks later, participants will be asked to complete questionnaires measuring body image, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and sexual health. A small device to measure physical activity will be mailed to participants to wear on their hip for 7 days at the start of the intervention and at twelve weeks. At the end of the study, participants and peer mentors will be interviewed to get their perspective on the intervention and ways to improve it and make it sustainable.

Innovative elements: This study is innovative because it will test more convenient methods of helping young breast cancer survivors increase their activity by being completely remote and requiring no in-person contact. Using Fitbits and the Fitbit Coach app combined with peer support, we will test if we can help young cancer survivors add in activity to their busy, ever shifting schedules. An online message board through Fitbit will help them connect with other young cancer survivors in the study and support each other in reaching their goals.

Community involvement: Haus of Volta is a nonprofit that has been working specifically with young breast cancer survivors since 2015. The founder, Ms. Nagel, has also been working as a State Leader for the Young Survival Coalition since 2014. The Haus of Volta’s close relationship with the young breast cancer survivor community led to this research question and plan. For this project, Haus of Volta will be involved in recruitment, as peer mentors to the women in the study, and interpreting the results. Haus of Volta will also use its connections with the larger young breast cancer survivor community to share the results of the study.