Existing literature suggests that numerous factors influence cancer survivors’ physical activity (PA) levels, for example receiving specific PA information from health care professionals. Interestingly. research also suggests that health care professionals fail to promote PA to cancer patients due to a variety of reasons. However, qualitative research exploring how these factors impact or influence PA levels amongst cancer survivors and PA promotion amongst health care professionals is sparse. In addition to this, no known research has utilised an interpretative phenomenological approach which includes both breast cancer survivors and breast cancer nurses. This research study utilises an interpretative phenomenological approach to explore breast cancer survivors’ lived experiences of physical activity (PA) and breast cancer nurses’ perspectives and experiences of promoting PA. By utilising a phenomenological approach and involving both groups, I aim to illuminate the multiple perspectives of PA and understand the meanings of the participants’ experiences of either participating in PA or promoting PA.

This research involved two separate phases. During Phase One, I interviewed ten breast cancer survivors individually, using semi-structured interviews; exploring their individual lived experiences of PA. The findings were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) approach; the aim here was to illuminate the participants’ individual experiences and meanings of PA. The themes identified were: ‘losing and regaining control of the body’, ‘experiences and perceptions of support’, ‘the meaning of PA’ and ‘the importance of being with other people who were in the same boat’.

During Phase Two, I interviewed five breast cancer nurses individually, using semi-structured interviews; exploring their perspectives and experiences of promoting PA. Template analysis was the method chosen to analyse the findings, the main themes identified were: ‘Perceived responsibility for promoting PA’, ‘External services and resources’, ‘Nurse-survivor relationship’ and ‘Perceptions of breast cancer survivors’ characteristics’.

In Phase One: Varied experiences and meanings of PA amongst the breast cancer survivors are illuminated; however, it appeared that they utilised PA as a tool to help make sense of and adapt to their ‘new normal’. In Phase Two: Differences amongst the breast cancer nurses with regards to their attitudes and perceptions of their roles and PA promotion were identified; it appeared that these differences caused inconsistencies with PA promotion. The findings from both phases of the research study were synthesised and explored further. The key findings which emerged across the two phases were: utilising PA as a tool to make sense of and adapt to a ‘new normal’, the importance of relationships and limited PA advice. The key findings illuminate the differences between the breast cancer survivors’ and the breast cancer nurses’ perceptions and attitudes. For example, the breast cancer survivors’ meanings of PA were related to gaining a sense of ‘normality’ and control over their overall health and well-being. Whereas, the majority of the breast cancer nurses’ focused on the medical benefits of PA, rather than focusing on the benefits of PA holistically.

The unique insight into both sample groups, provides a deeper understanding of their experiences and meanings of PA and promoting PA. These findings may support and improve future research and PA promotion within oncology. It is recommended that more research is needed to develop further understanding of this phenomena which a) utilises interpretative phenomenological methods b) includes both sample groups, c) involves diverse sample groups such as; age, ethnicity, job roles etc. Further, it is suggested that specific education and training for breast cancer nurses with regards to their role and responsibility to promote PA, should be available as it may overcome specific issues relating to perception of their roles and PA promotion.

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