The role of exercise and physical activity in cancer survivorship

Dr Catherine Granger1
1The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Allied health plays an important role in the management of cancer. Cancer is associated with high disease burden and physical hardship. People with cancer can experience complex symptoms including cancer-related fatigue, and these symptoms frequently lead to a cycle of inactivity and functional decline. There are well-established guidelines regarding physical activity for people with cancer, which are supported by research demonstrating that exercise is safe, and associated with improvements in many patient outcomes. Higher physical activity levels after diagnosis have also been shown to be associated with reduced cancer-specific and all-cause mortality in breast, colon and prostate cancer. Despite the evidence for exercise and physical activity, the majority of people with cancer do not meet the physical activity guidelines. Therefore many allied health disciplines play an important role through education regarding physical activity (to patients, carers and health care professionals) and / or with the delivery and prescription of exercise training to cancer survivors. This presentation will outline the rationale, role and evidence supporting exercise and physical activity for people with cancer. It will discuss issues including timing of exercise relative to treatment, including the topic of prehabilitation; and barriers to exercise from the perspective of patients and the healthcare system. Examples will be drawn from a number of difference cancer types.


Dr Catherine Granger is a physiotherapist clinician-researcher with expertise in physical activity and exercise for cancer and cardiorespiratory patient populations. She is the Head of Physiotherapy Research at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and a Senior Lecturer in the Physiotherapy Department at The University of Melbourne. She holds the inaugural Victorian Cancer Agency Clinical Research Fellowship for Nursing and Allied Health. Dr Granger has over 55 publications in peer review journals and obtained over $2 million in grant funding as a chief investigator for research projects, predominately in the area of physical activity and cancer. She is currently leading a randomised controlled trial investigating the benefit of an exercise and education self-management program for people undergoing surgery for lung cancer. Dr Granger is a strong believer in the dissemination of research findings having received numerous invitations to present at national and international conferences and being a regular host on the Sunday morning 3RRR radio program Einstein-A-Go-Go science show. In 2017 she was named the Victorian Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year and in 2018 she was named as one of the ABC’s Top 5 Scientists