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Physical activity trajectories following gynecological cancer: results from a prospective, longitudinal cohort study


Background Participating in physical activity after a diagnosis of cancer is associated with reduced morbidity and improved outcomes. However, declines in, and low levels of, physical activity are well documented in the broader cancer population, but with limited evidence following gynecological cancer.

Objective To describe physical activity levels from before and up to 2 years after gynecological cancer surgery; to explore the relationship between physical activity patterns and quality of life; and to describe characteristics associated with physical activity trajectories post-gynecological cancer.

Methods Women with gynecological cancer (n=408) participated in a prospective study that assessed physical activity and quality of life pre-surgery (baseline), at 6 weeks, and 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months post-surgery. Validated questionnaires were used to assess physical activity (Active Australia Survey) and quality of life outcomes (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General). Generalized estimating equation modeling, group-based trajectory analysis, and analysis of variance were used to identify physical activity levels over time, to categorize women into physical activity trajectory groups, and to assess the relationship between physical activity levels and quality of life, respectively.

Results Women had a mean±SD age of 60±11.4 years at diagnosis, with the majority diagnosed with endometrial cancer (n=235, 58%) or stage I disease (n=241, 59%). Most women (80%) started with and maintained low levels of physical activity (1–10 metabolic equivalent task hours per week), reported no physical activity throughout the follow-up period, or reduced physical activity levels over time. Only 19% of women maintained or doubled physical activity levels, so that by 24 months post-diagnosis they were engaging in sufficient levels of physical activity. Women with endometrial cancer (58% of the sample) were more likely to be overweight or obese and to report low levels of physical activity or none at all. Higher physical activity levels were associated with higher quality of life (p<0.05).

Conclusion The low baseline and surveillance levels of physical activity show that the vast majority of gynecological cancer survivors have the ability to improve their physical activity levels. Integration of physical activity advice and support into standard care could lead to gains in quality of life during gynecological cancer survivorship.

  • quality of life (PRO)/palliative care
  • postoperative period
  • miscellaneous
  • gynecology
  • gynecologic surgical procedures

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