Exercise intervention for women following treatment for ovarian cancer
: a realist evaluation of a co-designed implementation process.

  • Deirdre McGrath

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Despite evidence indicating the benefits of exercise for women with ovarian cancer, uptake is poor among this patient population. It is therefore necessary to determine why this is and develop a strategy to optomise the implementation of an exercise intervention with this group of women.

The aim of this study was to develop, implement and evaluate a programme theory to optomise the implementation of an exercise intervention for women following chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer.

This single centre, realist evaluation study incorporated three stages. Stage 1 was a realist literature review which developed an initial programme theory of how exercise interventions are thought to work. Stage 2 incorporated a series of three co-design workshops with ovarian cancer survivors and their informal carers. Stage 3 involved testing and evaluating the refined programme theory through the implementation an valuation of a 12-week homebased exercise intervention with women following chemotherapy treatment  for ovarian cancer. Each participant received weekly telephone support.

A recruitment rate of 73 .8% was achieved. A retention rate of 96. 7% was recorded. In terms of adherence 100% achieved the recommended dose of aerobic exercise, with 93.4% achieving the recommended dose of resistance training. Qualitative data highlighted: a disease-specific health care professional (HCP) should make the initial approach; flexibility in achieving exercise goals; weekly telephone behavioral support; an home-based approach. The results from all three stages of this realist evaluation study informed the final programme theory.

The programme theory which was developed, refined and tested during the three stages of this study indicates how to optimise the implementation of an exercise intervention with women following treatment for ovarian cancer.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 July 2026.
Date of AwardJul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorGillian Prue (Supervisor), Peter O'Halloran (Supervisor), Joanne Reid (Supervisor) & Malcolm Brown (Supervisor)


  • Adherence
  • exercise
  • realist evaluation
  • 0varian cancer
  • Participation
  • Retention

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