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Physical activity and cognitive changes in younger women after breast cancer treatment
  1. Melissa Arneil1,
  2. Debra Anderson2,
  3. Kimberly Alexander3 and
  4. Alexandra McCarthy4
  1. 1 Division of Cancer Services, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3 School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Mrs Melissa Arneil, Queensland Health, Brisbane, QLD 4102, Australia; melissa.arneil{at}


Objectives Studies indicate women aged 25–49 years previously treated for cancer report cognitive alterations. Good evidence indicates physical activity can be beneficial after cancer and might additionally benefit cognitive function. This short report presents data from a substudy of the Younger Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program (YWWACP), which explored cognitive alterations and investigated potential associations between physical activity and cognitive function in participants in the YWWACP. The primary aim of this substudy was to determine in younger women previously treated for breast cancer (1) whether subjectively reported cognitive function changed over time and (2) if physical activity is associated with subjectively reported cognitive function, and if time had an impact on this.

Methods All participants had completed breast cancer treatment. Data were collected at baseline (n=41) and at 12 weeks. Measures assessed demographics, self-reported physical activity, cognitive function, sleep quality, stress, anxiety and depression using validated and reliable, subjectively reported instruments.

Results Cognitive function and physical activity scores increased across the time points, with cognitive function revealing a statistically significant increase over time (p=0.004). Statistical testing revealed that physical activity was not correlated with cognitive function and that change in physical activity was not correlated with change in cognitive function.

Conclusion These data provide early evidence that cognitive function and physical activity improved over time in this sample. However, interpretations of a correlation between physical activity and cognitive function should be made with caution, and future research would benefit from larger samples.

  • breast
  • survivorship
  • supportive care

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to interpretation of the data, the preparation of the manuscript and the final approval of the submitted version.

  • Funding The PA Research Support Scheme (2016) and RBWH Diamond Care Grant (2015) provided funding for the larger study, which supported recruitment and study maintenance.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval During this study, human rights were carefully maintained and considered according to the guidelines established by the human research ethics committees of the participants’ health services and investigators’ universities. This study was conducted in accordance with the International Conference of Harmonisation Guideline E6–Good Clinical Practice recommendations for clinical trials.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.