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Exercise's Role in Cancer Recovery

Updated on February 9, 2017


That exercise is beneficial for patients recovering from cancer has been demonstrated in numerous quantitative studies. It is the role of qualitative analysis to take a closer look at this topic and understand the experience of those involved in it. The article selected for this paper is a qualitative study that focuses on the barriers to exercise women with breast cancer experience. It is useful to understand what barriers to complementary care exist since, were it not for them, everyone would engage in complementary care activities. In order to make changes to policy that allow for better quality of treatment, medical professionals must understand why patients might not engage in a form of care.

Research Problem

The work by Husebø, Karlsen, Allan, Søreide and Bru (2014) discuss the various barriers to engaging in exercise as complementary care for patients with breast cancer. It is not uncommon for female breast cancer patients to be prescribed an exercise routine to help manage the effects of their condition and to combat depression. Some women chose to ignore their routines regardless of the benefits associated with them. In fact, some women show a decline in their activity levels from before they were diagnosed, and this lethargy is an area of interest for many researcher. Husebø et al. (2014) aim to understand why breast cancer patients decline exercise in order to better encourage them to engage.

Purpose of Research

The purpose of the this research is to understand why patients would decline exercise that benefits them. This project follows a quantitative study completed by the Husebø and a different team that identified the issue and necessitated further analysis. According to Husebø et al. (2014) the research question is “What are the motivational factors and barriers to exercise as perceived by women with breast cancer?” This questions efficiently sums up what must be answered in order to understand the cause of breast cancer patients avoiding exercise as a form of complementary care. The qualitative study occurred in the form of focus groups, which is an apt method for addressing the issue at hand.

Literature Review

The authors discuss previous research by Husebø et al. (2014), which led to the current study.. The authors also discuss the quantitative studies that show the effectiveness of exercise as a complementary therapy for female patients with cancer. This article was published in 2014, and most of the research cited was current at that time. While some older psychological texts and work on the theoretical framework of qualitative research are cited, no scientific studies older than 5 years are used in any meaningful way to the research. (Husebø et al., 2014).

Husebø et al. (2014) did not evaluate any existing, similar studies, possibly due to a lack of such studies being published within the last 5 years. Studies older than 5 years were cited purely out of respect and to give credit for giving ideas of how to run this current study. The authors focused mostly on their own work throughout the article and the results of the focus groups were formulated into a theoretical model which they discuss at length.

Conceptual Framework

Husebø et al. (2014) briefly cover the benefits of exercise for reducing the side effects of cancer treatment for female breast cancer patients. It appears that the authors wish to understand these underlying factors to avoiding exercise so that someday a plan can be developed to address this issue with patients and increase the numbers of patients who wish to engage in exercise. This notion is evidenced by the fact that Husebø et al. (2014) had been working on understanding the benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients and is therefore invested in this area of research.

Husebø et al. (2014) did not use a diagram to express their model. They do use a chart to display participants responses under five different categories which are “side effects of breast cancer treatment as a barrier to exercise, restoring and maintaining normality in daily life motivates exercise, other valued activities compete with exercise, constructive support enhances exercise, and positive beliefs about efficacy and outcomes motivate exercise.” This chart gives the reader an easily understood framework for their model. In addition to the five themes, there are three stages occurring in a different axis.

The first of the three stages is shown on the left side of the chart, which displays shortened patient responses from the focus groups. These responses give explanations for patient engagement in or avoidance of exercise. The second stage is shown in the middle column, and it further shortens the participants responses into a more general reason (i.e. a woman who is uncomfortable being in athletic clothes after a mastectomy is simply displayed as “changed body,” while a woman who experiences pain from chemotherapy is filed under “side effects.”) By the third column, the most similar reasons get bundled together even further and are now the five themes (i.e. the patients mentioned above would both be classified within the theme of “side effects of breast cancer treatment as a barrier to exercise” (Husebø et al., 2014).


The research of Husebø et al. (2014) gives the reader insight into one component of complementary care (exercise) for female breast cancer patients and the barriers to engaging in such care, which are often patient generated. This is important research to developing a more comprehensive understanding of the topic and gives an important inside look from the patients’ perspectives. Though ultimately, it is up to the patient whether or not they want to engage in care, nurses being educated on the barriers to motivation will allow them to better work with these patients and effectively encourage them to participate in treatment.


Husebø, A. M., Karlsen, B., Allan, H., Søreide, J. A., & Bru, E. (2014). Factors perceived to influence exercise adherence in women with breast cancer participating in an exercise program during adjuvant chemotherapy: A focus group study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24(3-4), 500-510.


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