Aim: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide. Both disease- and treatment-related side effects, such as fatigue, have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. A growing body of evidence is suggesting that exercise can play a key role in improving the physical and psychological wellbeing of cancer patients, however there is limited evidence in colorectal cancer patients. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of supervised aerobic exercise on quality of life and fatigue in colorectal cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy.
Methods: Patients who had undergone curative resection for colorectal cancer (stages II-III) and were scheduled to receive adjuvant chemotherapy were enrolled into this non-randomised controlled trial. Patients in the intervention group (IG) took part in a 6-month aerobic exercise program (2x/week supervised, 30min at 50-70% VO2peak), while patients in the usual care group (UC) received no formal intervention. Quality of life (EORTC-QLQ-C30 and CR29) and fatigue (MFI) were assessed at baseline, 3 months and 6 months.
Results: 59 patients (33 in IG vs 26 in UC) were enrolled into this study. 18 patients dropped out of the study prior to the 6 month follow-up (9 in IG vs 9 in UC). Groups were comparable at baseline with regard to patient characteristics, quality of life and fatigue. Between-group differences were limited to dyspnea (p=0.031), urinary frequency (p=0.009), and blood and mucus in stool (p=0.006) at 3 months, all favouring the intervention group. Within-group changes suggest the intervention group was able to maintain or improve their functioning, while physical functioning (p=0.040) decreased and general fatigue (p=0.008) and reduced motivation (p=0.041) increased in the usual care group at 3 months.
Conclusions: Colorectal cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy may benefit from exercise, however further randomised controlled studies are necessary to explore the optimal exercise modes and intensities.