Healthier lifestyles for women recovering from cancer

Increased physical and emotional health benefit for women recovering from cancer has been the outcome of a Griffith University wellness program which is now set to become widely used across Australia.

Led by Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland, and timely for Breast Cancer Awareness Month October 2017, the nurse-led study aimed to reduce the significant side effects associated with breast, blood and/or gynaecological cancers, whilst also reducing the risk of developing other chronic health conditions.

As part of the Women’s Wellness After Cancer Program, women aged 18 and over with cancer undertook an evidence-based e-health 12-week lifestyle intervention.

“This was a massively important program for women, during that crucial time after cancer treatment where women are known to be particularly proactive in wanting to look after themselves,” says clinical nurse manager Janine Porter-Steele who will be speaking at this week’s Pink Ribbon Blue Sky Breakfast in Brisbane this Friday (27 October).

Adopted by several healthcare settings

Set to be adopted by several Australian healthcare settings, the program focused on diet, exercise and managing side effects of cancer and its various treatments with each participant receiving access to a specially designed website, iBook and hard-copy book providing them with a step-by-step approach to implementing good health practices.

“Throughout the 12 weeks, the participants – all of whom had just completed the acute treatment phase for cancer – were guided by an experienced registered nurse to support them in goal setting and maintaining motivation.”

Each study participant had access to three online consultations with a nurse who provided advice regarding sleep, diet, exercise, alcohol intake and stress levels.

“The step-by-step approach can be adapted for the personal needs of each participant, with some key strategies introduced,” says Ms Porter-Steele.

“We were pleased to see that following the program, participants saw various physical and emotional health benefits which both improved their quality of life and also empowered them to feel more in control of themselves after what can be very devastating experiences.

“Improved body mass index and waist circumference were just some of the positive outcomes, as well as improved body image and sexual functioning. All of these are key in the post cancer stage.

“However, this is more than just looking at someone’s cancer in isolation. This is really a holistic, multi-behavioural approach to mitigating the potential long-term consequences after the disease, looking at the health and wellbeing of someone’s overall lifestyle eg concerning sleep patterns or even their menopausal issues, to make sure they can get the best possible outcomes.

“We also built a lot of peer support aspects into the program, with women being able to easily connect with one another through the program’s discussion boards and forums.

“Our future aim now is to build on this with a maintenance program, which will further allow women to gain support in their recovery journey,” says Ms Porter-Steel.

For more information on the program contact Janine Porter-Steele at j.porter-steele@griffith.edu.au