Open Access Open Badges Research

A pilot study of an exercise & cognitive behavioral therapy intervention for epithelial ovarian cancer patients

Shalini H Moonsammy1*, Crissa L Guglietti1, Daniel Santa Mina23, Sarah Ferguson45, Jennifer L Kuk1, Sara Urowitz6, David Wiljer7 and Paul Ritvo16

Author Affiliations

1 School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada

2 Kinesiology Program, University of Guelph-Humber, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

3 Survivorship Exercise Program, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

5 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

6 Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

7 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Journal of Ovarian Research 2013, 6:21  doi:10.1186/1757-2215-6-21

Published: 4 April 2013



Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of all gynaecologic cancers. Faced with poor prognoses, stressful treatment effects and a high likelihood of recurrence, survivors must confront significant physical and psychological morbidities that negatively impact health-related quality of life. Frequently reported side effects include cancer-related fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, and psychological distress. Exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy interventions have counteracted such adverse effects in other cancer populations.


To investigate the feasibility and benefits of a 24-week home-based exercise intervention, coordinated with 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (two sessions per month), developed for two types of patients diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer: 1) those undergoing primary treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy after primary surgery; 2) those on surveillance after completing treatment within the last 2 years.


Participants were recruited from the Gynaecologic Oncology Clinic. Eligible participants completed baseline assessments and were provided with home-based exercise equipment. Cognitive behavioral therapy was provided every other week for patients via telephone. Assessments were completed at baseline (T1), 3 months (T2) and 6 months (T3).


19 of the 46 eligible patients approached were enrolled, with 7 patients in the treatment group and 12 in the surveillance group. There was a significant within group increase in peak VO2 from baseline to 6 months: F(2,16) = 5.531, p = 0.015, partial η2 = 0.409.


The combined 6-month exercise-cognitive behavioral therapy intervention was associated with significant increases in aerobic fitness in epithelial ovarian cancer patients assessed. These improvements were similar regardless of whether the patient was receiving chemotherapy or under surveillance.

Ovarian cancer; Exercise; Cognitive behavioral therapy; Chemotherapy; Health-related quality of life; Epithelial ovarian cancer