Physical activity declines in people treated for cancer and for most exercise never returns to pre-diagnosis levels. Exercise reduces many symptoms and supports maintenance of physical function. Views of Australian oncology health about exercise in cancer patients throughout their disease trajectory are unknown.
To document perceptions of Australian health professionals about exercise in people diagnosed with cancer undergoing treatment.
A cross-sectional study design was used to survey Australian healthcare professionals. Members of cancer-related professional and research groups were emailed an invitation including a link to the survey (snowballing recruitment also used). Respondents completed the 50-item survey online. Here we report descriptive statistics.
While 439 started the survey, 392 completed some data (89% participation rate), across 17 disciplines (25% Allied Health, 23% nursing, 15% medical oncology). Most respondents were female (77%), from metropolitan areas (77%), 87% reported engaging in physical activity themselves. They had a mean of 16 years in practice (SD 10.4), and 42% treated all early stage cancers and 43% all advanced stage cancer types.
Majority of professionals agree PA is beneficial (73%), safe (62%) and important (71%) during cancer treatment. They believe their patients are capable of exercising (39%) and recommendations would be well received (44%). Exercise discussion lasting 1-5 minutes in consultations was reported by 42% of respondents; 30% refer to other exercise services in their hospital. Respondents agreed/strongly agreed with the following as barriers to exercise referrals: patients’ physical constraints 22%, patient financial constraints 21%, too much to discuss 18%.
Australian oncology health professionals perceive exercise as beneficial, safe, and important to patients, but substantial barriers to them discussing and referring patients to exercise services.