HOBI Faculty Receive UF Cancer Center Pilot Grant to Study Breast Cancer Patients’ Perceptions about Exercise

Photo of Francois Modave, PhD
François Modave, PhD

A team of UF researchers led by François Modave, Ph.D., and Janice Krieger, Ph.D., received a pilot grant from the UF Health Cancer Center to study breast cancer survivors’ perceptions of physical activity during and after treatment.

The researchers will use the results to develop a mobile application that provides automated exercise programs tailored to the user, as well as online social networking and motivational messaging to control weight gain during and after treatment for breast cancer. The team hopes the application will be especially helpful for women diagnosed with breast cancer in underserved populations.

“The aim of the pilot study is to better understand these perceptions so we can develop appropriate tailored messages that encourage women to exercise during and after treatment,” Modave said.

Modave is an associate professor of biomedical informatics and director of the mHealth Lab in the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics (HOBI). He is a principal investigator of the project together with Krieger, director of the STEM Translational Communication Center (STCC) and a professor in the advertising department in the College of Journalism and Communications. Krieger also serves as co-director of the recruitment center at UF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). Other members of the multidisciplinary team include HOBI assistant professors Jiang Bian, Ph.D., and Yi Guo, Ph.D., and Karen Daily, D.O., in the division of hematology and oncology at UF.

Unlike many other cancer diagnoses, which often lead to weight loss, more than half of women diagnosed with breast cancer tend to gain weight during treatment. The reasons are many: Chemotherapy can lead to fluid retention, and indulging in food cravings can help reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy. Pain and fatigue often lead to reduced physical activity and decreased metabolism.

To prevent weight gain, breast cancer survivors are encouraged to engage in a weight management program focused on dietary intake and increased physical activity.

“Some evidence suggests that breast cancer survivors should engage in an exercise program even during treatment if manageable, as it could have a positive impact on mental health during and after treatment,” the researchers wrote.

The team will assess perceived self-efficacy pertaining to physical activity, along with attitudes and barriers of breast cancer survivors, caregivers, and social networks towards adopting an exercise program during and after treatment. The team will also examine how ethnicity and socioeconomic status affect these perceptions.