New research from Australia shows that a telephone program called CanChange improves the health outcomes of people diagnosed with colon cancer.
The program targeted health behaviors such as levels of physical activity, weight management and diet as these are known to have a significant effect on physical functioning, quality of life and fatigue after a cancer diagnosis.
Improving health behaviors can reduce the chance of cancer recurrence and increase survival.
Researchers found that after 12 months, colon cancer survivors who had received regular telephone support were more physically active, maintained their body weight and had a healthier diet.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Researchers compared the health behaviors of two groups of bowel cancer survivors, one of which participated in the CanChange program.
“After 12 months we found a significant and positive difference in the physical activity of people who participated in the CanChange program,” said Anna Hawkes, Ph.D.
“CanChange participants also maintained their body mass index (BMI) whereas those who didn’t take part in the trial significantly increased their BMI. Participants also reduced their fat intake and increased their vegetable intake.”
Hawkes said bowel cancer was a leading cause of illness and death in Australia and the western world.
“The five year survival rate has increased to 65 per cent, but survivors still face many physical and mental challenges that can have a significant effect on their quality of life,” she said.
“But despite the challenges associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, survivors can be motivated to make behavioral improvements like those targeted in the CanChange program that can have a very positive effect on their lives.”
Hawkes reports that the study was the first of its kind to use the telephone to target a range of health behaviors to improve health outcomes specifically for bowel cancer survivors.
She said the success of this program made way for the program to be rolled out across Australia as well as internationally.
“Telephone-delivered programs are acceptable to cancer survivors as they are convenient, flexible and can be delivered across the country. They are also relatively low cost,” she said.
“The CanChange program would be immediately translatable through existing telephone helplines which are widely used for patients with cancer in Australia and other countries.”