New Research Findings Will Help Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors

April 12, 2019

Thanks to new treatments and technologies, the number of U.S. cancer survivors has increased to 16.9 million as of January 2019. During a session on Friday, April 12, 2019, at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA (, several healthcare professionals presented new research to support the ever-growing population of cancer survivors.

Physical Activity and Diet

Physical activity can prevent recurrence or second cancers as well as improve response to current cancer treatment. However, not all survivors can access recreational facilities and not all environments support walking for exercise. In addition, many nurses do not feel comfortable counseling cancer survivors about how to safely achieve activity goals. Crystal Chu, BSN, RN, of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, VA, said that her research found that identifying neighborhood walkability (e.g., variety of walking paths, safe surfaces) can help nurses assess important barriers to physical activity.

So-Hyun Park, PhD, ANP-BC, RN, of Hunter College in New York, NY, reported on a study that examined whether participation in aerobic resistance exercise versus a more passive health promotion would affect cancer survivors’ nutrient intake over a 12-month period. All participants reported decreased intake of energy, protein, total fat, and carbohydrates, and although physical activity levels increased in the exercise intervention group, it did not affect their nutrient intake behavior. Park concluded that diet-specific targeted interventions are needed to decrease energy and nutrient intake among female cancer survivors.

Communication About Symptoms

Ovarian cancer has multiple co-occurring cancer- and treatment-related symptoms that negatively impact quality of life, function, and treatment adherence, making optimal patient-provider communication essential, Teresa Hagan Thomas, PhD, RN, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing in Pennsylvania, said. However, inconsistent symptom communication can result in discordance. Hagan Thomas’s research found that symptom severity was inversely related to appropriate communication; however, having severe symptoms negatively correlated with appropriate communication with healthcare providers.

Post-Traumatic Stress

Ahrang Jung, PhD, RN, of the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Nursing in Chapel Hill, presented the results of a study that examined the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and identified the predictive factors in patients with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). The study findings showed that patients who were younger, were not cured or did not know whether they were cured, had more comorbidities, had lower social support, and had higher cognition-general concerns were significantly more likely to experience PTSD.

Spouses and Related Health Behaviors

Lixin Song, PhD, RN, FAAN, of UNC School of Nursing in Chapel Hill, examined how cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and health behaviors are related and found that the most common types of CVDs among both survivors and their spouses were hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, and other heart disease. Cancer survivorship programs that reduce CVD risks and improve healthy behaviors should include both survivors and spouses to influence related health behaviors.

According to Song, “Our work demonstrates how to use complex representative national survey data to conduct family research. To our knowledge, this is the first study to exam the role and gender effects on CVDs, quality of life, and health behaviors among a national representative of cancer survivors and their spouses.”

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