To identify the experience of breast cancer survivors regarding cancer‐related fatigue, exercise and exercise adherence.
Cancer‐related fatigue is a common symptom among cancer survivors that limits quality of life. Despite exercise being recommended as a viable solution to manage cancer‐related fatigue, relatively few research studies on the experience of cancer‐related fatigue and exercise adherence have been conducted.
This was a qualitative study to identify breast cancer survivors’ experience of cancer‐related fatigue, exercise and exercise adherence. This paper adhered to the COREQ checklist in reporting.
Four focus group interviews were conducted with 16 breast cancer survivors who had fatigue score of 4 out of 10 (moderate fatigue) or greater. Ethical approval was obtained and participants met for focus group interview discussion. The interview guide included questions on cancer‐related fatigue, barriers and facilitators of exercising, strategies for exercise adherence and suggestions for a supportive programme.
Four themes were identified through thematic analysis: (a) The insidious and overpowering nature of cancer‐related fatigue; (b) exercising when experiencing fatigue surrounded by prevailing myths; (c) multiple barriers to exercise; and (d) facilitative factors to continue exercising despite fatigue.
Participants’ experience of moderate or greater cancer‐related fatigue prevented them from exercising, despite knowing its importance, and limited them to passive activities. Misconceptions that exercise is associated with lymphedema and risk of recurrence, poor psychosocial self‐image and lack of clear knowledge and exercise programmes for cancer survivors further limited adherence to exercise. In contrast, finding comfort and strength through exercising and interacting with other breast cancer survivors were facilitative factors.
Relevance to clinical practice
The insights shared by breast cancer survivors experiencing cancer‐related fatigue can contribute to developing an exercise adherence programme as a way to manage and alleviate fatigue and establish healthy survivorship care.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.