The contribution of general and cancer-related variables in explaining physical activity in a breast cancer population three weeks to six months after their primary medical treatment.

Elke Van Hoof 1, Caroline Charlier2, Evelyn Pauwels1 ,2, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij2
1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium, 2UGent, Ghent, Belgium


Physical activity determinants are subject to change when confronted with the diagnosis “cancer” and new cancer-related determinants appears. The aim of the present study is to compare the contribution of cancer-related determinants with more general ones in explaining physical activity three weeks to six months post-treatment.


A theory based and validated questionnaire was used to identify physical activity levels (total and domain-specific) and associated determinants among 464 breast cancer survivors (aged 18 to 65 year) three weeks to six months post-treatment.


Descriptive analyses showed higher scores for general determinants in comparison with cancer-related determinants. Nevertheless, results of regression analyses showed that both, general and cancer-related determinants explained total and domain-specific physical activity. Self-efficacy, enjoyment, social support, lack of time and lack of company were important general determinants. The perception of returning to normal life, cancer-related barriers (fatigue, lack of energy and physical side-effects) and self-efficacy in overcoming these barriers were important cancer-related determinants. Although results differed according to the women’s working status and the physical activity domain, in both groups, general self-efficacy explained most physical activity types.


Comparable with the general population, enhancing breast cancer survivors’ self-efficacy in being sufficiently physical active seems to be important in physical activity interventions post-treatment. However, interventions should be tailored to the experienced symptoms and working statusof the women.

Research Implications

This study supports the tailored approach in offering supporting services (in this case services that enhances physical activity) to cancer survivors.

Clinical Implications

The study indicates the importance of addressing the characteristics of  aptients when drafting an survirvor care plan.

Acknowledgement of Funding

This study was funded by the Flemish League against Cancer (Vlaamse Liga tegen Kanker).