The role of exercise and physical activity in cancer survivorship

Dr Lara Edbrooke


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.


Lara is a physiotherapist, currently completing her PhD at the University of Melbourne. Her PhD research has involved conducting a multi-site (3 VCCC sites), multi-disciplinary randomised controlled trial of home-based exercise and symptom management for people with inoperable lung cancer during and following active treatment. Lara’s role at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre involves research capacity building as the Grade 4 Allied Health Researcher for the seven Allied Health disciplines. Lara has previous research experience project managing several randomised controlled trials prior to undertaking her PhD and has completed a post-graduate diploma of epidemiology and biostatistics