New project to look at reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence

Sport scientists at Sheffield Hallam University are working on a new project that looks at helping breast cancer patients reduce the risk of the disease returning. 

Dr Helen Crank

Yorkshire Cancer Research has invested £238,000 into the project which is being led by Northumbria University and supported by Dr Helen Crank, a reader at Hallam’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science.

The research will focus on helping breast cancer patients achieve and maintain a healthy weight following treatment and Dr Crank will help to lead and coordinate this research in Sheffield and Newcastle.

Research shows that two thirds of women are overweight when diagnosed with breast cancer. Extra body weight can lead to higher levels of the hormone oestrogen and harmful substances in the blood, which can then fuel the growth and spread of breast cancer cells.

A support programme, including counselling sessions, skills workshops and phone calls, will be co-designed with patient representatives. Patients from Yorkshire and the North East who have undergone treatment for a type of breast cancer that uses oestrogen to grow – known as ‘ER positive’ breast cancer – will be recruited to take part in the initiative as part of a clinical trial.

“The impact of cancer and its treatment can be very difficult,” said Dr Helen Crank. “Tailored interventions to help those women most in need are extremely important.

“Quality of life, personalised care and getting the best outcome for cancer patients go hand in hand. Understanding patients’ needs is vital in this project so we can develop a programme that will support women to achieve a healthy weight after their initial breast cancer treatment.”

John Saxton, professor of clinical exercise physiology at Northumbria University, said: “There is already convincing evidence for the positive impact of healthy lifestyles in women living with and beyond breast cancer. However, a pragmatic intervention is needed to deliver sustainable lifestyle support to women who would benefit. This project will develop such an intervention and ensure that an increasing number of women from Yorkshire and the North East enjoy a high quality and prolonged period of survivorship after breast cancer.”

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “With more and more women surviving breast cancer, patients’ needs post-treatment are becoming more important than ever. It’s vital that we provide the very best support to ensure people living with and beyond cancer in Yorkshire have the very best chance of a long and healthy life. We are very proud to be funding this research and would like to thank all our supporters for making this investment possible.”

The project is part of a £3.6m investment by the charity in research that will improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer across Yorkshire.

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