Recruitment for this project has now been successfully completed.

About the project

The benefits of increased physical activity and exercise are well known for women with breast cancer which has not spread beyond the lymph nodes in their underarm region, but are unknown for women in whom the cancer has spread elsewhere, such as to their bones (advanced cancer). It is this group however who may obtain appreciable benefits from increased physical activity for their physical and psychosocial wellbeing.

The most common symptom associated with advanced breast cancer is fatigue, and increased physical activity has been shown to reduce fatigue in early breast cancer and a range of other conditions. The study explored the relationship between symptoms experienced by women living with advanced breast cancer and their levels of daily physical activity, aerobic fitness and muscle strength.

The research also explored daily physical activity, aerobic fitness and muscle strength in women who do not have a history of breast cancer. Collecting information from this group allowed the researchers to compare physical activity levels and physical fitness in women with advanced breast cancer and those without breast cancer.

What were the results of this project?

October 2013 update: The aim of this study was to investigate differences in physical activity levels and physical fitness between women living with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer and women with no history of breast cancer. The researcher's findings show that although women with metastatic breast cancer may be weaker, less fit and relatively inactive compared to their healthy counterparts, they are still functionally capable of being physically active, and in the exit interview, clearly indicated a desire to be physically active. However, the women living with metastatic cancer were unclear as to how to become physically active. Findings from this study have contributed to the next phase of this program of research where we are assessing the benefits that women with metastatic cancer perceive from participating in an exercise program.

Professor Kilbreath said "The Register4 community not only saved us valuable time in recruiting for this study, but also allowed us access to participants of a wide range of demographics who we may not have been able to reach through traditional means."

The researcher: Professor Sharon Kilbreath

Professor Sharon Kilbreath received her physiotherapy undergraduate and master’s degrees in Canada, whilst her Ph.D. degree in neurophysiology was conferred from the University of New South Wales, Australia. At present, she is Professor within the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney. Prof Kilbreath’s research is directed at rehabilitation of patients’ impairments and disabilities resulting from treatment of breast cancer. She leads a team of senior researchers, clinicians and several postdoctoral students in projects that aim firstly to prevent physical morbidities from occurring as result from treatment of breast cancer and secondly to diagnose and treat lymphoedema, one of the major complications of treatment.

Who was this project suitable for?

This project was looking for two groups of women - those without breast cancer who do not have a family history of breast cancer, and those with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer means you have had a tumor also identified in bone or in places other than the breast and underarm. As the research is based in Sydney, participants are limited to those women living in Sydney or outer Sydney metropolitan region. Participants could have been from any country of birth and aged from 18 – 99 years.

What did this project involve?

Women were asked to complete questionnaires related to their physical activity, quality of life and fatigue. Following completion of the questionnaires, women undertook validated field-based assessments of aerobic fitness, upper and lower limb muscle strength and body composition. To assess energy expenditure and physical activity, women were asked to wear a SenseWear® Armband and an Actigraph® accelerometer for a period of 5 days.

Where was the project conducted?

The project was conducted at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney in Lidcombe. However in most cases, the researchers were able to conduct home visits to participants involved in the project.

What publications were achieved as a result of this project?

This project is still underway however we will add information about the publications resulting from the research as soon as they are available.