According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of women living with metastatic breast cancer has doubled in the last decade. Advances in treatment have increased survival, but there is a caveat to these encouraging statistics: Survivors often experience prolonged symptoms that affect their quality of life. Weight gain, fatigue and loss of muscle mass and strength can result in significant distress and physical limitations.

A new, multisite national study available through the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network is testing a lifestyle program to help women living with metastatic breast cancer feel better. Every Day Counts, a 16-week research program, involves diet changes, physical activity and strength training.

“We want to do everything we can to help these women with lifestyle changes," said Melinda Stolley, PhD, associate director of cancer prevention and control and co-principal investigator of the study.

“Can interventions like this improve quality of life, and more importantly, why? These are the questions we want to answer.”

The study builds on a 12-week pilot program that featured moderate intensity physical activity and a plant-based diet that reduced red meat consumption. “The study resulted in robust improvements in quality of life, and the women felt stronger and less fatigued,” Stolley said.

The new study aims to recruit 176 women within the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network in cooperation with Loyola University in Chicago. Women may self-refer. Candidates start with a medical assessment to ensure they can participate safely. The study team records height, weight, and strength and endurance measures. Women will also have their blood drawn for before-and-after comparisons of factors like inflammation and insulin resistance.

Once enrolled, women are randomly assigned to the lifestyle group or a control group that follows a home/organization program providing an equal level of personal attention. After 16 weeks, the control group can cross over to the lifestyle program.

Lifestyle elements, based on American Cancer Society guidelines, include:

  • Exercise to increase moderate activity and endurance, tailored to participants’ preferences, five times a week; strength training two to three times a week
  • Personalized coaching sessions
  • Cooking classes and diet plans to reduce red meat consumption and increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“We are meeting women where they are,” Stolley said. “The program fits with the lives women are already leading.” 

To learn more, call 414-955-8819 or visit or Clinical Research page.