Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JANUARY 26, 2017

Every now and then I read a study that makes me grin. This is one of those rare moments. A group from the university of Alabama developed a dance intervention for breast cancer survivors. The finding was that participation helped ease women into an exercise program. I would also bet the proverbial ranch that it was a positive experience for couples and that it brought some moments of grinning to everyone.

A dance intervention for cancer survivors and their partners (RHYTHM).

Pisu M 1,2, Demark-Wahnefried W 3,4, Kenzik KM 3,5, Oster RA 6,7, Lin CP 6,7, Manne S 8, Alvarez R 3,9, Martin MY


The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and impact of a ballroom dance intervention on improving quality of life (QOL) and relationship outcomes in cancer survivors and their partners.


We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial with two arms (Restoring Health in You (and Your Partner) through Movement, RHYTHM): (1) immediate dance intervention and (2) delayed intervention (wait-list control). The intervention consisted of 10 private weekly dance lessons and 2 practice parties over 12 weeks. Main outcomes were physical activity (Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire), functional capacity (6 Minute Walk Test), QOL (SF-36), Couples' trust (Dyadic Trust Scale), and other dyadic outcomes. Exit interviews were completed by all participating couples.


Thirty-one women survivors (68% breast cancer) and their partners participated. Survivors were 57.9 years old on average and 22.6% African American. Partners had similar characteristics. RHYTHM had significant positive effects on physical activity (p = 0.05), on the mental component of QOL (p = 0.04), on vitality (p = 0.03), and on the dyadic trust scale (p = 0.04). Couples expressed satisfaction with the intervention including appreciating the opportunity to spend time and exercise together. Survivors saw this light-intensity physical activity as easing them into becoming more physically active.


Light intensity ballroom dancing has the potential to improve cancer survivors' QOL. Larger trials are needed to build strong support for this ubiquitous and acceptable activity.


Ballroom dance may be an important tool for cancer survivors to return to a physically active life and improve QOL and other aspects of their intimate life.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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