Exercise combats cancer-related fatigue: report

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Exercise appears to be beneficial for patients suffering from cancer-related fatigue, both during and after treatment, a review of published studies indicates.

Nearly all cancer patients experience fatigue, Dr. Fiona Cramp and colleagues note in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

According to guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, treatable factors that may be related to cancer-related fatigue, such as pain, emotional distress, sleep disturbance, anemia, nutrition, activity level, and co-morbid illnesses, should be identified and treated.

However, there is no consensus regarding the effect of exercise on cancer-related fatigue once treatable causes have been addressed.

Cramp, of the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, and colleagues searched the medical literature for controlled trials that evaluated the effect of exercise on cancer-related fatigue. They identified 28 studies involving 2083 participants. More than half of the studies involved women with breast cancer.

“Statistically significant improvements in fatigue were identified following an exercise program carried out either during cancer therapy or following cancer therapy,” the researchers report. Most programs involved moderate-intensity exercise performed two or three times per week.

Cramp’s team recommends that exercise be considered as one of several components of the management strategy for cancer-related fatigue, which may also include other nonpharmacologic interventions, including psychological and social therapies, stress management, nutrition therapy and sleep therapy.

“Exercise shouldn’t be used in isolation but should definitely be included as one of the components in the package of interventions used during and after treatment,” Cramp said in a written statement.

SOURCE: The Cochrane Library 2008.