New study offering individualized exercise programs for cancer patients and survivors


HALIFAX, N.S. – Cancer patients and survivors living in Halifax Regional Municipality may be eligible to participate in a research study that offers free individually-tailored group-based exercise programs.

Activating Cancer Communities through an Exercise Strategy for Survivors (ACCESS) is designed to lessen the impact of a cancer diagnosis and its treatments on participants and improve their overall well-being.

“Physical activity and exercise have helped me take charge of my own health and well-being,” said Dr. Melanie Keats, a three-time cancer survivor who is also principal investigator for ACCESS and a professor with the school of health and human performance at Dalhousie University’s faculty of health.

“Although I continue to experience long-term effects from cancer and its treatment, being active helps me cope better mentally and physically,” Keats said. “I hope ACCESS will be a stepping stone to help other cancer patients and survivors improve their quality of life too.”

ACCESS is available as both a hospital and community-based program. Moderate- to high-risk patients and those wanting or needing more support may use the exercise lab at the Victoria General site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre. Low- to moderate-risk patients and survivors will complete the program at the Canada Games Centre.

Former Premier John Buchanan is among the first to participate in ACCESS. He said he already notices an improvement in his energy.

“I was introduced to the program by Dr. Lori Wood at the cancer centre, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer by Dr. David Bell,” Mr. Buchanan said. “It metastasized to some small bones in 2016 and I continue to have adverse effects from the cancer and the medications I take daily.

“For the past month, the ACCESS strategy through its exercise program has helped me greatly to cope with cancer limitations and day-to-day activities. My shoulders, arms and mobility have improved.”   

Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program with Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), said the launch of ACCESS is cause for celebration.

“”Exercise has many benefits,” Dr. Bethune said. “The ACCESS study will help to document those benefits for patients and for our cancer care system and bring us a few steps closer to making exercise a routine part of cancer treatment and care.”

Cancer patients and survivors who want to participate in ACCESS must be over the age 18 and have a referral from their doctor. A certified exercise physiologist assesses each participant and provides them with an individualized 12-week exercise plan. The plan is modified during every exercise session, based on how the participant feels on that day.

ACCESS is open to current QEII cancer patients and survivors. It has been made possible through the contributions of a number of funding and community partners. Special thanks to:

o the QEII Foundation;
o Ultramar’s Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation Grant;
o the Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control (ARC);
o the Robert Pope Foundation;
o the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute;
o the Canada Games Centre in Halifax;
o the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro;
o and the QEII Cancer Care program staff.

The hope is to expand the program to other parts of the province as more funding becomes available.

Cancer patients or survivors who want to learn more about ACCESS may email or call (902) 473-2035.

- 30 -

Media contact:     

Christine Smith
Communications Manager
Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program
Nova Scotia Health Authority
(902) 222-9739

Provincial Media Line: 1-844-483-3344

About Nova Scotia Health Authority
Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) provides health services to Nova Scotians and a wide array of specialized services to Maritimers and Atlantic Canadians. NSHA operates hospitals, health centres and community-based programs across the province. Our team of health professionals includes employees, doctors, researchers, learners and volunteers. We work in partnership with community groups, schools, governments, foundations and auxiliaries and community health boards. Visit for more.