Exploration of Exercise Outcome Expectations Among Breast Cancer Survivors

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Exercise is associated with decreased recurrence risk and improved survival and quality of life for breast cancer survivors. However, only an estimated 17% to 37% of survivors adhere to the American Cancer Society exercise guidelines. A critical first step to increase exercise among survivors is to understand how they believe exercise will affect them.


The aim of this study is to explore common exercise outcome expectations among 20 female survivors of stage IA to IIB breast cancer who completed adjuvant treatment and an exercise intervention.


A mixed-method descriptive study consisting of semistructured telephone interviews assessed exercise outcome expectations and how the experience of cancer and its treatment influenced the expected outcomes of exercise. The qualitative data were analyzed using a summative content analysis procedure; means were calculated for each item of the exercise outcome questionnaire. The qualitative and quantitative data were compared and contrasted.


The sample was 70% white and 30% African American, with a mean (SD) age of 62 (8.5) years, and mean (SD) time since treatment completion of 4.2 (1.3) years. Three themes emerged from the interviews: (1) prevalence of common expectations, (2) pervasive impact of fatigue, and (3) a brighter future. Overall, findings revealed that breast cancer survivors have low levels of agreement that exercise may mitigate late and long-term cancer and treatment effects.


In general, breast cancer survivors (even those who are motivated to exercise) do not hold strong beliefs that exercise will decrease late and long-term treatment effects.

Implications for Practice:

Clinicians can educate survivors about exercise benefits.

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