Nav: Home

ACE pilot study takes cancer rehab to the community

June 19, 2015

(Edmonton and Calgary) Stage three breast cancer. Four words that, when uttered aloud, effectively put Laura Roberts' entire life on pause.

Faced with major surgery to remove a large tumour in her breast and 20 lymph nodes from her armpit, Roberts put on hold a budding career as a sociology and political science instructor at Keyano College in Fort McMurray to return to her hometown of Edmonton.

"It was pretty major surgery and it took a long time to recover from that. I didn't drive for almost a month and I could barely lift my arm," Roberts says.

She started physiotherapy to regain her strength but in December suffered another setback when a followup exam revealed her cancer hadn't gone away, and in fact required extensive chemotherapy.

An active person, Roberts, 36, was forced to adjust to the ebb and flow of treatment, alternating between having energy to go for walks or practise yoga and being bedridden for a week. She still tires out easily, but is making steady gains thanks to the Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) pilot study.

Making exercise more accessible in the community

A partnership between the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and YMCA, ACE is exploring ways of improving the health and fitness of cancer survivors through a first-of-its-kind strategy to support transition to community-based exercise programming.

Despite existing evidence that exercise improves the health, fitness and energy levels of cancer survivors, there are very few community-based programs anywhere in North America, says study lead Margaret McNeely, an assistant professor of physical therapy in the U of A's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

"The goal of this pilot is to create more opportunities for cancer patients and survivors to exercise or get back into exercise in a setting that feels comfortable and welcoming," says McNeely. "Cancer survivors have told us they don't want a hospital-based program; they want exercise offered in a location that focuses on wellness, not illness, and where they can work on their recovery and getting better."

Over the course of 24 weeks, 80 cancer survivors in Edmonton and Calgary will take part in a pilot study to investigate the benefit of cancer-specific exercise classes and personal training, and the feasibility of offering such programming in the community.

In both cities, the research teams trained YMCA exercise specialists to understand the needs of survivors who've battled cancer and those still receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments, using a cancer education program developed by Nicole Culos-Reed from the U of C's Faculty of Kinesiology.

"Improved access to programs is the key element of the ACE program. Eliminating barriers leads to improved adherence and better outcomes for cancer survivors, both physically and psychologically," explains Culos-Reed. "This work increases access to physical activity programming for cancer survivors within their own community."

Study participants will be split into two groups--one receiving standard care that will serve as a control, and one group that will be assigned to supervised group exercise training focusing on strength, balance, aerobic exercise and flexibility.

Two days a week, Roberts joins half a dozen cancer survivors at the Don Wheaton Family YMCA for an hour-long class overseen by instructors who understand her unique exercise needs and abilities, including cording and lymphedema that affects her arm movements. After just four classes, she says she's already noticed an increase in strength and feels energized upon leaving the downtown fitness facility.

"It feels like real life when I leave here. It feels kind of like I'm back in my normal life," she says.

Janice Yurick, manager with the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Cross Cancer Institute, says the ACE program is important because it bridges the gap between CancerControl Alberta's physiotherapy services and the health and wellness of general exercise.

"Cancer survivors are provided with therapeutic, targeted exercise that is intended to address specific cancer-related physical impairments through ACE," says Yurick. "Making this available in community facilities will allow more cancer patients to have access to this important therapy."

Lorraine Gemmell, director of new program development with the YMCA of Northern Alberta, says the partnership fits perfectly with her organization's vision to participate in the health, well-being and physical activity of people dealing with a sudden life-changing event in their lives, including cancer.

McNeely says the study results could help determine whether it's feasible to offer similar community-based programming in other locations across Alberta. The team hopes to launch a much larger, three-year program starting next spring, pending available grant funding. With cancer rates and survivorship steadily on the rise, the need for this kind of programming will only grow, she says.

"Returning to activity, or becoming more active, can be a physical and mental obstacle for many cancer survivors, particularly after lengthy cancer treatment. If we can help them overcome these barriers and get back to the activities they enjoy, this type of initiative has the potential to have a long-term impact on their health and quality of life."
-end-


University of Alberta

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
Blood test offers improved breast cancer detection tool to reduce use of breast biopsy
A Clinical Breast Cancer study demonstrates Videssa Breast can inform better next steps after abnormal mammogram results and potentially reduce biopsies up to 67 percent.
Surgery to remove unaffected breast in early breast cancer increases
The proportion of women in the United States undergoing surgery for early-stage breast cancer who have preventive mastectomy to remove the unaffected breast increased significantly in recent years, particularly among younger women, and varied substantially across states.
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue more likely to develop contralateral disease
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue have almost a two-fold increased risk of developing disease in the contralateral breast, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer.
Some early breast cancer patients benefit more from breast conservation than from mastectomy
Breast conserving therapy (BCT) is better than mastectomy for patients with some types of early breast cancer, according to results from the largest study to date, presented at ECC2017.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...