Australian women are increasingly likely to survive breast cancer at least five years from diagnosis. Consequently, the health of breast cancer survivors is an important field of cancer survivorship research. Regular physical activity participation improves several health outcomes for breast cancer survivors. Yet, little is known regarding how women who have/had breast cancer respond to information about health benefits of regular participation in physical activity.
This paper explores the perspectives of women diagnosed with breast cancer while mothers of dependent children, in terms of their responses to information about, and participation in, physical activity. The paper reports on in-depth qualitative interviews with 36 rural and metropolitan Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer while mothers of dependent children.
The women responded to health promotion messages that use population risk factors to promote individual behaviour change over a continuum of resistance, acceptance, cynicism and/or blaming themselves for their breast cancer diagnosis. The results suggest that this approach to health promotion was unhelpful for most of these women and did not have the desired effect of changing their behaviour toward participating in health promoting practices. In relation to physical activity participation, the women reported social/structural and individual enablers and constraints to their participation; level of intimate partner support was the strongest factor.
This paper will suggest ways to reframe physical activity and other health promotion messages by taking into account women’s everyday lives and changing the ways population risk/protective factors are translated into promoting individual behaviour change, while nevertheless encouraging the uptake of physical activity participation.