February 2016 VOL 7, NO 1

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Evaluating the Effects of a Physician-Referred Exercise Program on Cancer-Related Fatigue and Quality of Life Among Early Cancer Survivors

Staci Oertle, ANP-BC, MSN, AOCN; Sherry Burrell, PhD, RN, CNE, ACNS-BC; Melanie Pirollo, MS, RN, AOCN 


Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is the most common symptom experienced by cancer patients, and it may persist for years after treatment. CRF is a stressor that often results in poor quality of life (QOL). Although previous studies found exercise to be an effective intervention for CRF, managing this particular stressor continues to be a challenge.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a physician-referred exercise program (PREP) on self-reported CRF and QOL in early cancer survivors.


Seventy cancer survivors were recruited using convenience sampling to participate in this quasi-experimental study. The Brief Fatigue Inventory scale was used to measure CRF and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer QOL Questionnaire was used to measure QOL. Paired t-tests, adjusted for multiplicity, were used to examine differences between pre-PREP and post-PREP scores. The Neuman Systems Model served as the conceptual framework for this study.


A total of 38 participants completed the PREP. Global CRF scores significantly decreased after the PREP with a mean paired difference of 1.99 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.19 to 2.77; t(37) = 5.11; P = .0001; d = 0.83). QOL scores significantly increased after the PREP with a mean paired difference of –12.28 (95% CI, –19.39 to –5.17; t(37) = –3.50; P = .0012; d = 0.57).


Findings suggest the PREP was effective in reducing CRF and improving QOL in early cancer survivors. These benefits were found to be both statistically significant and clinically meaningful. Oncology nurses should encourage cancer survivors to engage in regular exercise in the early posttreatment period.

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