Improving Exercise and Diet in African-American Breast Cancer Survivors

August 24, 2010

Disparities researcher and cancer survivor, Vanessa B. Sheppard, PhD, assistant professor of Oncology, is dedicating her life's work to helping African-American women survive cancer.  Drs. Sheppard and Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhD, professor of oncology and associate director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, are leading a team at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center funded by the National Cancer Institutes, focused on breast cancer survivors.  The goal of this study is to help improve survival outcomes by implementing a study to improve diet and physical activity levels for African-American breast cancer survivors

For years you have probably heard that a slimmer waist line could ward off chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and maybe even cancer!  But did you also know that obesity has been associated with cancer deaths in women after menopause? 

Among breast cancer survivors, being overweight and/or obese can increase a woman's chances of breast cancer recurrence.  It can also lead to other chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. 

All of these problems may contribute to shorter survival and decreased chances for a healthy life in survivors.  Research has shown that African-American breast cancer patients are more likely to be obese and gain weight during treatment but little is known about strategies that can help these women achieve or maintain a healthy weight after breast cancer treatment.

To combat the weight related post-treatment complications Drs. Sheppard and Adams-Campbell have designed a 12-week clinical trial to help motivate African-American women.  Using group education and telephone-based counseling sessions with survivor coaches they hope to teach women the basic skills to adhere to recommended physical activity and dietary guidelines.

Women will meet with a registered dietician and exercise physiologist that will encourage health eating and improve physical activity.  We are very excited about this trial because it will be the first to combine group and peer-based education to address physical activity in African-American breast cancer survivors.

If you are an African-American breast cancer survivor, you may be eligible for this study.  Eligible women are:

  • African-American or Black
  • Not currently participating in any exercise programs
  • Over 21 years of age
  • 6 months to 5 years post-cancer treatment
  • Overweight

To find out more information, contact Jennifer Sween, MS at 202-687-0848 or

Author: Sherrie Wallington, PhD, assistant professor of Oncology and program director for the Health Disparities Initiative at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center