Lessons learned in the trenches: Facilitating exercise adherence among breast cancer survivors in a group setting

Academic Article


  • Background: Improving effectiveness of group exercise counseling for breast cancer survivors is needed. Objective: The objective of this study was to describe clinical observations, with research and translation implications, derived during group exercise counseling for breast cancer survivors. Methods: While implementing group session components of an effective social cognitive theory-based exercise intervention, observations were made through verbal discussion with study staff, review of participant feedback, and prospective journaling by the group facilitator. The intervention has been implemented 11 times (ie, 63 survivors; 66 group sessions). Thematic consistency, application to intervention goals and design, and implications were reconciled between 2 investigators. Results: Breast cancer diagnosis was a strong source of commonality among group participants. Participant age, time since diagnosis, and expectation for group sessions (eg, group support vs health education) hindered group commonality. Barriers unique to the breast cancer experience were infrequent, but people-pleasing behavior was often identified as a barrier to adherence. Feeling at risk for cancer recurrence was a major concern. Some participants required referral for mental health evaluation for preexisting conditions (eg, depression). Although participants easily understood time management, application of other behavioral modification techniques was more difficult. Conclusions: A breast cancer diagnosis alone is not sufficient for commonality among group members. Teaching time management and positive reframing is essential. Protocols for appropriate mental health referrals are needed. Implications For Practice: Our observations will assist group facilitators in enhancing group dynamics and addressing obstacles hindering counseling effectiveness. Moreover, our results suggest hypotheses related to enhancing behavior change in a group setting worthy of future study. Copyright © 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Published In

  • Cancer Nursing  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rogers LQ; Vicari S; Courneya KS
  • Volume

  • 33
  • Issue

  • 6