Assistant professors create program to support cancer survivors


Catherine Jankowski, Ph.D., investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and assistant research professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Ellyn Matthews, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor in the CU College of Nursing, have co-authored a brochure that helps make planning and monitoring exercise easier for cancer survivors.

The brochure was recently published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nurse and is endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“Our program is geared toward small steps, reaching goals, and then modifying them as needed,” Jankowski said. “You have cancer survivors who overestimate or underestimate their abilities, or fear returning to exercise. For some people who weren’t exercising before, cancer can even be their wake-up call.”

Studies show that the overall quality of life is higher in cancer survivors who exercise, and that the rate of cancer recurrence is lower. But while most doctors recommend exercise, many patients fail to follow through. Jankowski and Matthews said a major challenge for cancer survivors is the idea that exercise will add more fatigue on top of the debilitating tiredness that can accompany cancer treatment. In fact, they said, the reverse is true: In cancer patients -- like the population at large -- exercise decreases feelings of fatigue. The program guides cancer survivors through the process of picking an exercise, setting short- and long-term goals, monitoring progress and revising goals as needed. Importantly, the brochure helps the diverse population of cancer survivors personalize their exercise goals to maximize well-being across psychological and physical health. Cancer survivors can download the brochure for their personal use or physicians may include the brochure in patients’ paperwork.