Health Care Professionals’ Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Physical Activity in Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review

Georgina Alderman, Stuart Semple, Rebecca Cesnik, Kellie Toohey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to, combine current available literature across health professionals to determine commonalities and differences between knowledge and attitudes of physical activity (PA) and its importance within the cancer population. It aimed to identify any gaps in the literature to inform future study directions to enhance PA participation and improve health outcomes and quality of life. Data Sources: Design: systematic review. Data sources: Google Scholar, EBSCO, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science. Inclusion criteria: survey-based studies specifically reporting PA levels for both cancer patients and survivors from the perspective of oncology health care professionals. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) was used to guide this review. The initial search highlighted 15,342 articles and returned 190 articles with relevant titles, of which 20 met the eligibility criteria; 15.8% of cancer patients reported to meeting PA guidelines during treatment and 36.5% after treatment. On average 58.1% of health care professionals self-reported discussing PA with their cancer patients, with the average referral rate to an exercise specialist or rehabilitation program being 18.3%. Conclusion: Only a limited number of health care professionals are initiating a discussion about PA with their cancer patients. Some health care professionals reported limited knowledge of PA guidelines for cancer patients. Their own personal PA levels do not seem to be associated with whether they discuss PA with their patients. Common barriers to providing PA advice were experienced across all health care professions such as time, limited referral pathways, and patient interest. Future research should be carried out to substantiate these barriers and discover which strategies could be implemented to improve the levels of PA discussions and referrals within clinical practice. Implications for Nursing Practice: Given the position nurses hold within the health care system, it would be beneficial to upskill and improve their understanding of PA and exercise as medicine for the cancer population. This has enormous potential that could enhance PA advice and boost referrals to exercise professionals improving the health and quality of life of the cancer population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151070
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSeminars in Oncology Nursing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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