Workshop 6: Macmillan physical activity behaviour change care pathway for cancer patients


Kevin Johnson and Rhian Horlock (Macmillan Cancer Care)


Physical activity has multiple benefits for cancer patients. Despite this, only 23% are active – 31% are completely inactive. Health care professionals’ awareness of physical activity benefits is low. Only 9% talk to all their cancer patients about physical activity.

Many people affected by cancer want to have a healthier lifestyle. The traditional approach to physical activity during cancer treatment and rehabilitation is ‘rest is best’. However, low levels of physical activity are known to result in further de-conditioning, symptoms of fatigue, loss of functional capacity and reductions in quality of life. Inactive cancer patients may also be at higher risk of secondary tumours. A recent study of regularly active breast and colorectal cancer survivors indicated a 50% reduction in mortality risk.

Clinical Nurse Specialist and Practise Nurses are uniquely suited to offer advice about physical activity to those living with and beyond cancer. Patients come into contact with these health care professionals many times during treatment and surveillance providing numerous opportunities to initiate behaviour change.

Headline question

What interventions could be made to create opportunities for health care professionals to promote the benefits of physical activity to people living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis?

Workshop debate

  1. Is there a suitable time for integrating physical activity into cancer care pathways?
  2. What are the roles of health care professionals?
  3. In 5 years’ time what would success look like in terms of physical activity and cancer treatment?
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