Simple steps can improve quality of life for cancer patients, researchers find

School of Nursing studies show benefits of regular exercise, coping skills

Regular exercise can boost well-being among adults being treated for prostate, breast, or other cancers, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Assistant professor Jennifer Wenzel and colleagues report that a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week can help reduce the fatigue and emotional distress that may accompany treatments like chemotherapy and radiation in patients from age 20 to 80. The key, Wenzel says, is for patients to sustain the activity. Their findings are detailed in the April 2013 issue of The Oncologist.

"It adds to what we know and how we can help improve the quality of life for all cancer patients during treatment," Wenzel said.

Other School of Nursing researchers, including professor Fannie Gaston-Johansson, instructor Nancy Goldstein, and doctoral student Tokunbor A. Lawal, are looking more closely at the debilitating downside of breast cancer treatments—pain, depression, fatigue, and nausea can heighten stress and impair a woman's quality of life. They have found that participation in a structured program to improve coping skills results in greater physical and psychological health a full year after treatment ended. A second study found that adding religious coping as a strategy was of particular benefit to African-American breast-cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Their work is detailed in the March 2013 issue of Psycho-Oncology.

"This body of work is really all about improving the quality of a woman's life while she deals with survival and the side effects of cancer treatment," Gaston-Johansson said. "Because nurses are on the front lines of day-to-day care, we are ideally poised to educate women in cancer treatment about effective self-management tools."

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