Research has shown that exercise can enhance overall health and recovery, including mood and fatigue, for cancer survivors. Little has been done, however, to translate this knowledge into a community-setting. Dr. Bernardine Pinto is trying to change that. She has devoted much of her career to improving the quality of life among cancer survivors. Dr. Pinto is the principal investigator on a $2.5 million NIH R01 entitled, Peers Promoting Exercise Adoption and Maintenance among Cancer Survivors. She and her research team had previously tested the effects of a 3-month telephone-based exercise program offered by community peer volunteers to breast cancer survivors. This work was conducted in partnership with the Reach to Recovery program of the American Cancer Society (New England Division). Reach to Recovery volunteers are breast cancer survivors themselves and they were trained to offer the exercise program to other breast cancer survivors. This theory-based intervention was successfully delivered and found to significantly increase exercise at 3 months (post-intervention) and at 6 months compared to a contact control condition.
Dr. Pinto’s research team is now proposing to enhance the intervention to support not only the adoption of exercise (3 months) but also its maintenance at 12 months. If the proposed trial demonstrates positive effects, the team will design a dissemination trial of a peer mentored approach for exercise adoption and maintenance among breast cancer survivors in a community setting. Partnering with community-based cancer care organizations that offer peer mentoring can expand the reach (“scale up”) of efforts to enhance survivors’ recovery.