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Endometrial Cancer Survivor 'Steps to Health'

CancerWise - March 2008

By Dawn Dorsey

Diana Browning

After she was diagnosed with endometrial (uterine) cancer, Diana Browning knew she needed to lose weight. But it took good old-fashioned sibling rivalry to motivate her to stick with a program and meet her goals.

Following surgery to remove her cancer, Browning began making progress on losing weight, but then she was sidetracked with a back injury. When her sister, who was dropping pounds and looking good, came to visit, Browning knew she needed to get going on her weight-loss regimen.

She knew how because, before her injury, she had participated in a small pilot study for
M. D. Anderson endometrial cancer patients to help them lose weight. After her sister's visit, Browning enrolled in a six-month follow-up study called Steps to Health. The clinical trial guided participants in finding healthier lifestyles with personalized exercise programs, fitness monitoring and one-on-one counseling for support.

How it all began

In 2004, Browning was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which is more common in overweight women. She had struggled with her weight for a few years, but because she had trouble keeping to a regular exercise program, she never sustained her progress.

"Being diagnosed with endometrial cancer was a wake-up call," she says. "Following surgery, I lost some weight and walked twice a day with my dog, but I reached a plateau."

At a regular check-up at M. D. Anderson two years later, Browning learned about the pilot study. She signed up, partly because she supports the concept of clinical research and also because she thought the study's organized and monitored program would help keep her on track. She entered the program in July, but then, life intervened.

Sibling rivalry kicks in

"In October, I hurt my back painting," Browning says. "Then, the holidays came, and the New Year trotted on. By March, I had gained back all the weight I had lost after my surgery."

That's when her younger sister came to visit from England.

"She had lost 10 pounds on Weight Watchers and looked pretty good," Browning says. "As soon as she left, I started dieting and re-energized my self-designed exercise program with the treadmill and strength training."

By that time, a larger clinical trial began that was based on the Steps to Health pilot study, and she enrolled. In addition to exercising and keeping activity logs, she spoke to a counselor on a regular basis.

"It really helped to talk to the counselor about ways to stay on track during the humid summer, rainy fall, vacations and business trips," Browning says. "She also encouraged me to reward myself for successes and set goals."

Losing has its rewards

Browning's major goal was to complete a 5K run, and she succeeded in December 2007. She also has lost 45 pounds, but since her sister has lost 50, Browning says she will continue to diet to take off that final five pounds.

"One of my rewards for sticking with the program and reaching my goals has been major purchases of new clothes," she says. "I've also started quilting as a new hobby and rewarded myself with two quilting classes. I've completed two quilts."

Browning says she would recommend the Steps to Health program to other endometrial cancer survivors who need a little extra motivation and discipline.

Study offers discipline, results

"Steps to Health helps by providing an individually designed exercise program, which moves you progressively to more challenging levels," she says. "Your health is monitored, and you're provided with motivational one-on-one talks with a counselor and newsletters to keep you on track."

Browning says getting in shape has lowered her blood pressure, given her more energy and helped her handle stress better. She is looking forward to a healthy retirement in a few years.

The five-year Steps to Health study is being conducted by principal investigator Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., an associate professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science. For more information about the trial or to ask about enrollment, call research nurse Stacie Scruggs at 713-745-4296.

M. D. Anderson resources:

Other resources:

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center