Perspectives of patients with metastatic breast cancer on physical exercise programs: results from a survey in five European countries


Background: To successfully implement exercise programs for patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), services and patient education should consider patients' knowledge, preferences, values, and goals. Hence, gaining insight into their perspectives on exercise and exercise programming is important.

Method: In this cross-sectional survey, we recruited patients with MBC from the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. We collected data on patients' knowledge and skills about exercise and outcome expectations. We identified barriers to and facilitators of participation in exercise programs, and patients' preferences for program content and modes of exercise delivery.

Results: A total of 420 patients participated in the survey. Respondents were, on average, 56.5 years old (SD 10.8) and 70% had bone metastases. Sixty-eight percent reported sufficient skills to engage in aerobic exercise, but only 35% did so for resistance exercise. Respondents expected exercise to have multiple physical benefits, but a few patients expected exercise to worsen their pain (5%). Not having access to an exercise program for cancer patients (27%), feeling too tired (23%), and/or weak (23%) were the most often reported barriers. Facilitators for exercising regularly were previous positive physical (72%) and emotional (68%) experiences with exercising, and receiving personalized advice from a physiotherapist or sport/fitness instructor (62%). Patients were most interested in walking and preferred exercising at a public gym, although there were differences by country. Fifty-seven percent did not know whether their insurance company reimburses exercise programs and only 9% would be willing to pay more than €50 per month to participate.

Conclusion: A large percentage of patients with MBC lack the skills to engage in regular exercise as recommended by exercise guidelines for people with cancer. Patients may benefit from personalized advice and appropriate training facilities to overcome barriers. When implementing exercise interventions, attention should be given to reimbursement and the relatively low willingness-to-pay.

Keywords: Cancer survivorship; Exercise; Metastatic breast cancer; Patient perspectives.

More about this publication

Supportive Care in Cancer
  • Volume 31
  • Issue nr. 12
  • Pages 694
  • Publication date 13-11-2023

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