Struggling with cancer and treatment: young athletes recapture body control and identity through exercise: qualitative findings from a supervised group exercise program in cancer patients of mixed gender undergoing chemotherapy

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L Adamsen, C Andersen, J Midtgaard, T Møller, M Quist, M Rørth

Cancer and treatment can negatively affect the body's performance and appearance. Exercise has been tested in a few studies for altered body image among middle-aged women with breast cancer. The aim of the study was to explore how young pre-cancer athletes of both genders experience disease- and treatment-related physical fitness and appearance changes while undergoing chemotherapy and participating in a 6-week group exercise intervention. A prospective, explorative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted before and at termination of the intervention. The study included 22 cancer patients (median age 28 years). The young athletes experienced a change from a high level of physical activity, body satisfaction and a positive self-identity to a low level of physical activity, body denial and a negative self-identity. In the program, the patients experienced increased physical strength and recapture of certain aspects of their former positive body perception. Deterioation of muscle functions caused by chemotherapy was particularly painful to these patients, independent of gender and age. Young physically active patients are heavily dependent on their physical capacity, body satisfaction and self-identity. This should be taken into account when designing programs to rehabilitate and encourage these patients through the often-strenuous antineoplastic treatments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Volume19
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
ISSN0905-7188
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Adult, Body Image, Denmark, Exercise, Female, Group Processes, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Muscle Strength, Neoplasms, Prospective Studies, Psychomotor Performance, Sports, Survivors, Young Adult, Journal Article

ID: 179127320