Improving the health of cancer survivors

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Mobility and independence can be difficult to maintain for long-term cancer survivors, a group at a particularly high risk for accelerated decline. In this Healthcast, we look into a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association on a home-based program that could help change that fact.

Joe Collie has been prostate cancer-free for five-years.  "The operation was in July of 1993 so it's been 16 years since I had that procedure," says Collie.

Life after cancer can be challenging for many people.  Dr. Miriam Morey with Duke University Medical Center says, "We have evidence that cancer survivors are at higher risk of additional functional limitations when they go through cancer therapy; they have accelerated functional decline, they frequently are at risk for a second malignancy, so overall they represent an at-risk population."

As an overweight, long-term cancer survivor, Collie qualified to participate in "Renew", a study exploring what effect a detailed home-based diet and exercise program would have on his physical abilities.  "Participants in this study did not have to go join a gym, they didn't have to buy any special equipment," says Dr. Morey, "we basically sent the intervention to their home. Participants in the intervention group received workbooks with a tailored diet and exercise program and spoke with telephone counselors regularly about their progress."

The study of more than 600 cancer survivors found that after 12 months, compared to the control group, those in the intervention group reported less physical decline, and increased physical activity, quality of life and weight loss.  Dr. Morey says, "We asked them to make a lot of changes in a lot of different dimensions, not only physical activity but dietary changes, all at one time. They got a lot of requests made of them and they responded. And as a result, their physical function improved considerably."

Joe Collie sums it up like this: "You've got to be able to get up and move around, that's what they stressed, and that's what this program stressed," he says.

Researchers say a big strength of this program is that it does not require clinic visits and can be delivered anywhere a patient lives.

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