Gynecologic Cancer Survivors Movement to Wellness

November 2019 Vol 10, No 11
Robin Atkinson, RN, BSN, OCN

Background: Studies demonstrate that many gynecological (Gyn) cancer patients are reluctant to exercise during and after treatment due to fatigue and general weakness. This is the most distressing symptom affecting their quality of life.1-3 A local assessment of this population in our community practice reflected the same mindset with obesity and fatigue continuing into the survivorship phase of care. The YMCA LIVESTRONG program has shown positive outcomes in addressing these symptoms with their 12-week program.1 A program from this model was designed for Gyn survivors, with 2 of the sessions devoted to better nutrition and healthy food choices. The program was taught by a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition and creator of cancerdi to address, motivate, and empower women to make positive lifestyle changes. Any Gyn cancer patient could participate in this free class with the approval of their physician.

Objectives: The goals were to improve balance, increase walking distance, leg and chest presses for strength, and enhance flexibility by stretching and reaching exercises. Also, a sense of well-being with a decrease in fatigue was projected in this population.

Methods: Participant interviews and pre- and postmeasures of endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility at the YMCA by LIVESTRONG trainers. The testing shadowed the pre- and post-LIVESTRONG guidelines for measurement.4 Individual reporting for the overall effectiveness of the program was captured by a posttest questionnaire.

Results: Fifty percent completed the posttest and showed improvement in endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility. A sense of increased well-being with a decrease in fatigue was reported by all who completed the class. The remaining 50% partially completed the program due to a fall, low blood counts, general sickness, or physical issues. The partial completers did not complete a posttest.

Conclusion: Individual participants reported enjoyment with other ladies while exercising. This program showed positive outcomes in addressing general weakness and fatigue by demonstrating improvements in endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility. The pilot program offered encouragement and motivation to keep moving and exercise at a comfortable pace.

In the future, the class will be lengthened to a 90-minute session as program participants suggested to allow them more time to exercise. The next class will start earlier in the year to avoid the vacation issues. Also, due to absences related to side effects, the next class will target posttreatment survivors only. Recruitment was suboptimal, and we need to explore means to increase interest in the program.


  1. Musanti R, ChaoYY, Collins K. Fitness and quality of life outcomes of cancer survivor participants in a community exercise program. J Adv Pract. 2019;10:24-37.
  2. Maqbali MA, Hughes C, Dunwoody L, et al. Exercise interventions to manage fatigue in women with gynecologic cancer: a systematic review. Oncology Nursing Forum. 2019;46:71-82.
  3. Cramp F, Byron-Daniel, J. Exercise for the management of cancer‐related fatigue in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;1:CD006145.
  4. Schumacher MM. McNiel P. The impact of Livestrong at the YMCA for cancer survivors. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2018;45:717-725.
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Last modified: November 7, 2019

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