Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Safety, feasibility and effects of an individualised walking intervention for women undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer: a pilot study

Melissa J Newton1*, Sandi C Hayes1, Monika Janda1, Penelope M Webb2, Andreas Obermair3, Elizabeth G Eakin4, David Wyld5, Louisa G Gordon6 and Vanessa L Beesley2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

2 Gynaecological Cancers Group, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia

3 Queensland Centre for Gynaecologic Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

4 School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

5 Department of Medical Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

6 Centre for Applied Health Economics, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:389  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-389

Published: 8 September 2011



Exercise interventions during adjuvant cancer therapy have been shown to increase functional capacity, relieve fatigue and distress and may assist rates of chemotherapy completion. These studies have been limited to breast, gastric and mixed cancer groups and it is not yet known if a similar intervention is even feasible among women with ovarian cancer. We aimed to assess safety, feasibility and potential effect of a walking intervention in women undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.


Women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer were recruited to participate in an individualised walking intervention throughout chemotherapy and were assessed pre- and post-intervention. Feasibility measures included session adherence, compliance with exercise physiologist prescribed walking targets and self-reported program acceptability. Changes in objective physical functioning (6-minute walk test), self-reported distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), symptoms (Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale - Physical) and quality of life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy - Ovarian) were calculated, and chemotherapy completion and adverse intervention effects recorded.


Seventeen women were enrolled (63% recruitment rate). Mean age was 60 years (SD = 8 years), 88% were diagnosed with FIGO stage III or IV disease, 14 women underwent adjuvant and three neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. On average, women adhered to > 80% of their intervention sessions and complied with 76% of their walking targets, with the majority walking four days a week at moderate intensity for 30 minutes per session. Meaningful improvements were found in physical functioning, physical symptoms, physical well-being and ovarian cancer-specific quality of life. Most women (76%) completed ≥85% of their planned chemotherapy dose. There were no withdrawals or serious adverse events and all women reported the program as being helpful.


These positive preliminary results suggest that this walking intervention for women receiving chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is safe, feasible and acceptable and could be used in development of future work.

Trial registration


Ovarian neoplasm; exercise; chemotherapy; feasibility