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What Do Breast Cancer Survivors Expect From Exercise?

Hirschey, Rachel PhD, RN; Pan, Wei PhD; Hockenberry, Marilyn PhD, RN, PNP-BC, FAAN; Kimmick, Gretchen MD, MS; Shaw, Ryan PhD, RN; Lipkus, Isaac PhD

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000631

Background Exercise outcome expectations (OEs) (ie, what one expects to obtain or avoid by exercising) are influential to increase exercise among cancer survivors.

Objective The aim of this study was to measure the accessibility (ie, frequency one thinks about exercise resulting in an outcome) and importance (ie, one’s value of the outcome) of OEs among breast cancer survivors.

Methods Stage IA to IIB breast cancer survivors who were 1 to 5 years posttreatment completed OE questionnaires. Descriptive statistics were used to examine OE accessibility and importance.

Results The sample (n = 73) was 91.8% white, 5.4% African American, 1.4% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 1.4% other. The mean age was 58 (SD, 9.6) years. Outcome expectation importance mean was 6.1 (SD, 0.4), indicating OEs are overall “important.” Accessibility mean was 4.8 (SD, 0.6), demonstrating breast cancer survivors think about exercise OEs “sometimes/50% of the time.” There was a moderate (rs = 0.48) relationship between OE importance and accessibility, indicating they are related, yet distinct.

Conclusions Outcome expectations are generally important to breast cancer survivors. Thus, OEs may motivate increased exercise among this population.

Implications for Practice Oncology providers should encourage patients to think about OEs more often to increase exercise. Compared with traditional approaches of informing patients about exercise benefits, this may be a more comprehensive and powerful approach to motivate exercise among breast cancer survivors.

Author Affiliations: School of Nursing, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Dr Hirschey); and Schools of Nursing, Duke University, Durham (Drs Pan, Hockenberry, Shaw, and Lipkus) and Medicine (Dr Kimmick), North Carolina.

This research was funded by NINR grants 1F31NR015690-0 and 2T32NR007091 and the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Rachel Hirschey, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, University of North Carolina, 513 Carrington Hall, Campus Box 7460, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 (

Accepted for publication May 2, 2018.

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