Regular moderate- to high-intensity exercise can improve quality of life, fatigue, social function, and symptom management in patients with metastatic breast cancer, researchers reported in recent study findings. The results of the PREFERABLE-EFFECT study, presented at the 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, demonstrated that regular exercise is safe and has positive effects for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

For the study, researchers gave 357 patients with metastatic breast cancer an activity tracker and general exercise advice. Over nine months, one group of participants engaged in twice-weekly supervised sessions involving various types of exercise. Participants also exercised unsupervised for one of the twice-weekly sessions during the final three months of the study. The control group did not participate in supervised exercise. At three, six, and nine months, researchers surveyed participants about their physical, emotional, and mental quality of life.

At the beginning of the study period, more than half of patients reported experiencing pain (58%) and dyspnea (57%). At six months, survey scores for patients in the exercise intervention group showed improved pain (7-point decrease), dyspnea (7.6-point decrease), and social functioning (5.5-point increase) scores. In terms of physical fitness, the intervention group scored 13% greater than the control group on a steep ramp test.

Research on exercise for patients with metastatic cancer is limited, so guidelines could not definitively recommend exercise for the population. However, this trial's findings showed a clear benefit for patients with metastatic breast cancer, and the researchers recommended supervised exercise as a way to improve quality of life for that patient population. “Many patients continued exercising beyond nine months, and exercise became part of their daily lives and cancer treatment regimens,” the researchers said.

Oncology nurses can use ONS’s Get Up, Get Moving resources to teach patients about the benefits of exercise and incorporate exercise recommendations into their care.