Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 149, Issue 2, pp 331–342 | Cite as

Taking the next step: a systematic review and meta-analysis of physical activity and behavior change interventions in recent post-treatment breast cancer survivors

  • Shirley M. Bluethmann
  • Sally W. Vernon
  • Kelley Pettee Gabriel
  • Caitlin C. Murphy
  • L. Kay Bartholomew


Research has shown that recent post-treatment breast cancer survivors face significant challenges around physical activity as they transition to recovery. This review examined randomized controlled trials targeting physical activity behavior change in breast cancer survivors <5 years post-treatment and described (1) characteristics of interventions for breast cancer survivors as well as (2) effect size estimates for these studies. A systematic search was conducted following PRISMA guidelines with Medline, PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Scopus databases. Data were abstracted for primary intervention strategies and other details (e.g., setting, duration, theory use). A subgroup analysis was conducted to assess intensity of exercise supervision/monitoring and intervention effectiveness. The search produced 14 unique behavior intervention trials from the US and abroad published 2005–2013. The mean sample size was 153 participants per study. All interventions included moderate-intensity activities plus various behavioral change strategies. Most interventions were partially or entirely home based. The overall standardized mean difference was 0.47 (0.23, 0.67) with p < 0.001. Most interventions were effective in producing short-term behavior changes in physical activity, but varied greatly relative to intervention strategies and intensity of supervision/monitoring. Highly structured interventions tended to produce larger behavior change effects overall, but many larger effect sizes came from interventions supported by phone counseling or e-mail. We observed that ‘more’ may not be better in terms of direct supervision/monitoring in physical activity behavior interventions. This may be important in exploring less resource-intensive options for effective behavior change strategies for recent post-treatment survivors.


Breast cancer Survivorship Physical activity Behavior change Cancer rehabilitation 



Dr. Bluethmann is now a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Previously, she was supported by the Susan G. Komen Foundation (KG111378) and the Cancer Education and Career Development Program at the School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, funded by the National Cancer Institute (R25CA57712). The findings and conclusions in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the Susan G. Komen Foundation or the National Cancer Institute. The authors would also like to thank the following individuals for their assistance with this review: Gilbert Ramirez, Patricia Dolan Mullen, Helena Vonville, and Sohini Dhar.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirley M. Bluethmann
    • 1
  • Sally W. Vernon
    • 1
  • Kelley Pettee Gabriel
    • 1
  • Caitlin C. Murphy
    • 2
  • L. Kay Bartholomew
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Health Promotion and Prevention ResearchUniversity of Texas School of Public HealthHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Gillings School of Public HealthThe University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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