Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 292–305 | Cite as

Breast cancer survivors’ preferences for mHealth physical activity interventions: findings from a mixed methods study

  • Siobhan M. PhillipsEmail author
  • Kerry S. Courneya
  • Whitney A. Welch
  • Kara L. Gavin
  • Alison Cottrell
  • Anne Nielsen
  • Payton Solk
  • Danielle Blanch-Hartigan
  • David Cella
  • Ronald T. Ackermann
  • Bonnie Spring
  • Frank Penedo



Despite the benefits of physical activity for breast cancer survivors, the majority remain insufficiently active. Mobile health (mHealth) physical activity interventions may be a more scalable strategy to increase activity among survivors. However, little is known about their preferences for mHealth intervention features. This study explored survivors’ preferences for these features.


Survivors (N = 96; Mage = 55.8 (SD = 10.2)) self-reported demographic and disease characteristics, physical activity. A subset (n = 28) completed a semi-structured phone interview. Transcribed interviews were evaluated using a thematic content analysis approach and consensus review. Following interviews, the full sample self-reported interests and preferences for intervention features via online questionnaires. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.


Five themes emerged from interview data: (1) importance of relevance to breast cancer survivors; (2) easy to use; (3) integration with wearable activity trackers; (4) provide sense of accomplishment; and (5) variability in desired level of structure and personalization. The highest ranked intervention features were: daily and weekly progress feedback (87.5%), newsfeed (86.6%), activity challenges (81.3%), and scheduling tool (79.2%). Survivors were interested in receiving progress feedback (80.2%) and motivational (78.1%) and reminder (75.0%) messages.


Breast cancer survivors are interested in mHealth physical activity promotion interventions, but preferences varied around themes of relevance, ease of use, and enhancing personal motivation.

Implications for cancer survivors

Engaging survivors in developing and implementing remotely delivered mHealth activity promotion interventions may enhance their effectiveness.


Physical activity Exercise Technology Breast cancer survivors mHealth Mixed methods 



This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute [K07CA196840] and an award from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University awarded to Siobhan Phillips. The Lurie Cancer Center is supported in part by a NCI Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA060553. Whitney Welch and Kara Gavin are supported by NCI training grant CA193913 (PI: Bonnie Spring and Frank Penedo). We would like to thank Gillian Lloyd and Magaret Moran for their help with interview transcript coding.

Funding information

This study was funded by the National Cancer Institute (K07CA196840 and CA193913) and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center which is supported in part by a NCI Cancer Center Support Grant #P30CA060553.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board at Northwestern University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11764_2019_751_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 32 kb)
11764_2019_751_MOESM2_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 (DOCX 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siobhan M. Phillips
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kerry S. Courneya
    • 2
  • Whitney A. Welch
    • 1
  • Kara L. Gavin
    • 1
  • Alison Cottrell
    • 1
  • Anne Nielsen
    • 1
  • Payton Solk
    • 1
  • Danielle Blanch-Hartigan
    • 3
  • David Cella
    • 4
  • Ronald T. Ackermann
    • 5
    • 6
  • Bonnie Spring
    • 1
  • Frank Penedo
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Preventive MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and RecreationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Natural and Applied SciencesBentley UniversityWalthamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Medical Social SciencesNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Department of Medicine, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Institute for Public Health and Medicine, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA

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