SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Any breast cancer survivor will tell you the one word that's most feared is "recurrence". Now researchers at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center are conducting a first of its kind study to examine risk factors among survivors, with the help of a $5.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute and determined San Diegans.
At Stu Segall Productions, breast cancer survivor Wendy Segall is celebrating her sixth year cancer free with a slim body and an abundant zest for life.
"I was 75 pounds heavier then. I was a strong girl, but I'm in a completely different space now," she said.
Segall credits the UCSD Moores Cancer Center's SHAPE study for her new body and renewed outlook on life.
"I got a letter in the mail from UCSD to participate in this study and I really did feel like God was saying, 'Hey you're gonna get another chance here,'" she said.
SHAPE, an acronym for Survivors' Health and Physical Exercise, recruited Wendy and 259 other breast cancer survivors post-treatment to study the effects of weight loss and exercise on recovery.
"There are many factors that are involved in developing breast cancer and in fact most studies nowadays would suggest that diet is one of many factors that are related, certainly exercise as well," UCSD Family and Preventative Medicine Dr. Cheryl Rock said.
"When you look at the active things you can do to prevent cancer, it seemed that cancer liked fat and that I had," Wendy said.
Following treatment for stage two breast cancer, Segall received nutritional and group counseling along with a personalized exercise plan. In exchange, researchers tracked her progress over a two-year period.
"Every tool they gave me I used and I was pretty successful with it. I'm happy to say I lost a lot of weight and here it is, six years later and I feel really, really good," Wendy said.
"A woman who has got excess body fat when she's diagnosed with breast cancer has a 78 percent greater likelihood of having a recurrence," Dr. Rock said.
Researchers at Moores are now embarking on a new study called Energy to further their initial findings.
"In this study our primary focus over the next four years will be on quality of life," Dr. Rock said.
The goal is to recruit 800 breast cancer survivors among five national cancer institutes to determine if weight loss not only improves quality of life, but can reduce the risk of developing other conditions and recurrence among survivors following treatment.
"This could actually be something that changes standard practice," Dr. Rock said.
"I don't want it to come back to me so I will continue to exercise every day and I kind of feel like I'm fighting off all the stuff as I walk up those hills," Wendy said.
The UCSD Energy trial is looking for breast cancer survivors to participate in the new study. For information and criteria, click HERE.
Moores UC San Diego Breast Cancer Survivor Energy Trial For Information & Criteria: 858.822.2779 Email: email@example.com