Beliefs & Behaviors in Early Stage Breast Cancer Survivors
Posted Dec 10 2010 10:42am
Research studies have clearly shown us that diet and lifestyle behaviors can have either a negative or positive impact on breast cancer survival. While factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and being overweight have been shown to increase the risk for breast cancer recurrence, factors like eating healthy and increasing regular physical activity have been shown to reduce the risk for breast cancer recurrence. Despite the evidence of our lifestyles' impact on breast cancer survival, there appears to be difficulties in passing this information to breast cancer patients. In fact, one recent study reported that among breast cancer survivors who 'strongly agreed' that eating healthy and maintaining a healthy body weight would reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, only 50% or less actually followed a healthy diet or exercised at a recommended level !
In a follow-up study, these same researchers explored the relationship further by looking at the beliefs and behaviors of early stage breast cancer patients ( free to download ). In this breast cancer study, 301 Stage I and Stage II breast cancer survivors completed a questionairre regarding their beliefs about the importance of eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily and about getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity. In addition, these breast cancer patients were asked whether or not they met these recommendations. The results of this survey showed that
Only about 50% of both Stage I and Stage II breast cancer survivors 'agree' or 'strongly agree' that eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day will reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Of those that 'agree' or 'strongly agree' with the importance of adequate fruit and vegetable consumption, only 49.5% actually consumed at least 5 servings per day.
As the level of agreement with the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption declined, so did the number of breast cancer survivors who consumed adequate amounts.
Among early stage breast cancer survivors who 'agree' or 'strongly agree' with the importance of eating 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, only 35% engaged in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days per week.
I think there are at least two important messages we can obtain from these survey results. First, it is clear that for whatever reason, the importance of healthy eating habits and adequate amounts of exercise is not being conveyed clearly or with enough emphasis to breast cancer patients. The fact that only about one-half of the survey respondents believed that these lifestyle modifications could reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence clearly points to the deficiency in conveying these messages. Second, it is clear that even those individuals who do agree with the importance of making appropriate lifestyle choices for reducing breast cancer recurrence are either unable or unwilling to do so. The reasons for this are unclear, though the study investigators suggested that this apparent gap between beliefs and behaviors might be due to a lack of sustainable interventions or counseling opportunities near breast cancer survivors' homes, a lack of motivation, or a new 'live life to the fullest' approach to life after breast cancer. It has also been reported that there is often an inadequate amount of follow-up care guidelines provided by healthcare professionals to breast cancer survivors. Based on this study, it is glaringly clear that more needs to be done in regards to conveying the importance of lifestyle choices to breast cancer survivors and providing sustainable methods to help breast cancer survivors make healthier lifestyle changes.