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Can exercise and diet help women with metastatic breast cancer?

Start Year: 2017
Finish Year: 2018
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Marina Reeves
Grant Type: Pilot Study
Institution: The University of Queensland

Almost 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer each year, an advanced stage of the disease where the tumour has spread beyond the breast to other organs.

These women face not only a terminal illness, but also deal with poor quality of life and physical health as a result of the disease progressing and the side effects of their cancer treatments.

breast cancer researcher
NBCF-funded A/Prof Marina Reeves

Although treatments are not yet curative for metastatic breast cancer, they are designed to prolong life so women may endure this stage of the disease in a state of discomfort for many years.

Previous studies in women with early stage of breast cancer have shown that physical activity and a healthy, well-balanced diet are beneficial for these women.

It is also believed that physical activity would help improve the quality of life and wellbeing of women with metastatic breast cancer. However, there have been few studies in this area and there are no guidelines for the best diet and activity that would take into account each woman’s situation and specific needs.

The aim of this pilot study is to determine the viability of an exercise and diet program for women with metastatic breast cancer, and to test whether the program improves women’s quality of life, wellbeing and physical health.

During the program, participating women will be encouraged to focus on increasing both aerobic-based and resistance-based exercise sessions during personal training sessions tailored to their level of ability and existing fitness.

A dietitian will work closely with women throughout the program to help improve their diet quality. The advice will be tailored to each woman and consider any side-effects they may experience from their treatments, such as nausea/vomiting or constipation/diarrhoea.

This will be the first trial to evaluate an exercise and dietary intervention in this population, and provide much-needed evidence-based knowledge to help improve the quality of life for these women.

Findings from this study will then inform a larger research study and could ultimately inform public health guidelines and support for women with metastatic breast cancer, forming part of their routine cancer care in the future.