Cancer survivors' experience of exercise-based cancer rehabilitation: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research

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BACKGROUND: Evidence for the safety and benefits of exercise training as a therapeutic and rehabilitative intervention for cancer survivors is accumulating. However, whereas the evidence for the efficacy of exercise training has been established in several meta-analyses, synthesis of qualitative research is lacking. In order to extend healthcare professionals' understanding of the meaningfulness of exercise in cancer survivorship care, this paper aims to identify, appraise and synthesize qualitative studies on cancer survivors' experience of participation in exercise-based rehabilitation.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Five electronic databases (PubMed, PsychINFO, EMBASE, Cinahl and Scopus) were searched systematically for articles published up to May 2014 using keywords and MeSH terms. To be included, studies had to contain primary data pertaining to patient experiences from participation in supervised, structured moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise.

RESULTS: In total 2447 abstracts were screened and 37 papers were read in full. Of these, 19 studies (n = 390) were selected for inclusion and critically appraised. Synthesis of data extracted from eight studies including in total 174 patients (77% women, age 28-76 years) exclusively reporting experiences of participation in structured, supervised exercise training resulted in nine themes condensed into three categories: 1) emergence of continuity; 2) preservation of health; and 3) reclaiming the body reflecting the benefits of exercise-based rehabilitation according to cancer survivors. Accordingly, the potential of rebuilding structure in everyday life, creating a normal context and enabling the individual to re-establish confidentiality and trust in their own body and physical potential constitute substantial qualities fundamental to the understanding of the meaningfulness of exercise-based rehabilitation from the perspective of patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In addition to the accumulating evidence for the efficacy of exercise training in cancer rehabilitation, it is incumbent upon clinicians and policy-makers to acknowledge and promote the meaningfulness of exercise for the individual, and to use this knowledge to provide new solutions to current problems related to recruitment of underserved populations, long-term adherence and implementation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oncologica
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)609-617
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Research areas

  • Adult, Aged, Exercise, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Qualitative Research, Self Concept, Survivors

ID: 162718106