Here’s how MD Anderson is helping underserved cancer survivors

Here's how MD Anderson is helping breast cancer survivors
Here's how MD Anderson is helping breast cancer survivors

By the time Debbie Mendoza finished breast cancer treatment, she was on oxygen, using a walker, and too tired to even do daily chores around her house.

“Between the chemo and the mastectomy, that was some tough months,” Mendoza said.

She heard about the Active Living After Cancer program at MD Anderson, a 12-week group program that meets virtually, making it easier to reach patients across Texas and those in medically underserved communities.

According to Dr. Karen Basen-Engquist, the first two years of the program prove to them that breast cancer survivors like Mendoza can improve their physical activity and ability to accomplish daily tasks.

“Specifically the six-minute walk. So, how far they can walk in six minutes and how many times you can stand up and sit down in 30 seconds, which sounds easy, but when you think about it, as we age, that gets to be something that’s more and more important is getting out of those chairs without groaning and difficulty,” Basen-Engquist said.

When Mendoza started the program, she couldn’t walk two minutes straight.

“Now I’m walking a mile and a half every morning with my dog. So it’s really worked. Without the program, I don’t know if I would’ve gone this far, but now with the program, I feel healthier, my lungs are stronger and I have the confidence that I’m going to go further than this,” Mendoza said.

For Mendoza, getting support from the program, being able to not talk about feeling tired or having “chemo-brain” was also beneficial as it filled a gap she wasn’t getting with her family support group.

Basen-Engquist said the program could serve as a model to deliver a community-based physical activity to minority and medically underserved cancer survivors.

To join, please call:

  • Houston locations (English): 713-442-1216 or 713-442-1252
  • Houston locations (Spanish): 713-442-1216 or 713-442-1252
  • MD Anderson Houston Area locations: 713-563-6781 (English) or 713-563-4552 (Spanish)
  • El Paso locations (Spanish): 915-771-6305