Physical activity interventions for disease-related physical and mental health during and following treatment in people with non-advanced colorectal cancer

Maresa McGettigan, Chris Cardwell, Marie Cantwell, Mark Tully

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Abstract

Background
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. A diagnosis of colorectal cancer and subsequent treatment can adversely affect an individuals physical and mental health. Benefits of physical activity interventions in alleviating treatment side effects have been demonstrated in other cancer populations. Given that regular physical activity can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, and cardiovascular fitness is a strong predictor of all‐cause and cancer mortality risk, physical activity interventions may have a role to play in the colorectal cancer control continuum. Evidence of the efficacy of physical activity interventions in this population remains unclear.

Objectives
To assess the effectiveness and safety of physical activity interventions on the disease‐related physical and mental health of individuals diagnosed with non‐advanced colorectal cancer, staged as T1‐4 N0‐2 M0, treated surgically or with neoadjuvant or adjuvant therapy (i.e. chemotherapy, radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy), or both.

Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2019, Issue 6), along with OVID MEDLINE, six other databases and four trial registries with no language or date restrictions. We screened reference lists of relevant publications and handsearched meeting abstracts and conference proceedings of relevant organisations for additional relevant studies. All searches were completed between 6 June and 14 June 2019.

Selection criteria
We included randomised control trials (RCTs) and cluster‐RCTs comparing physical activity interventions, to usual care or no physical activity intervention in adults with non‐advanced colorectal cancer.

Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently selected studies, performed the data extraction, assessed the risk of bias and rated the quality of the studies using GRADE criteria. We pooled data for meta‐analyses by length of follow‐up, reported as mean differences (MDs) or standardised mean differences (SMDs) using random‐effects wherever possible, or the fixed‐effect model, where appropriate. If a meta‐analysis was not possible, we synthesised studies narratively.

Main results
We identified 16 RCTs, involving 992 participants; 524 were allocated to a physical activity intervention group and 468 to a usual care control group. The mean age of participants ranged between 51 and 69 years. Ten studies included participants who had finished active treatment, two studies included participants who were receiving active treatment, two studies included both those receiving and finished active treatment. It was unclear whether participants were receiving or finished treatment in two studies. Type, setting and duration of physical activity intervention varied between trials. Three studies opted for supervised interventions, five for home‐based self‐directed interventions and seven studies opted for a combination of supervised and self‐directed programmes. One study did not report the intervention setting. The most common intervention duration was 12 weeks (7 studies). Type of physical activity included walking, cycling, resistance exercise, yoga and core stabilisation exercise.

Most of the uncertainty in judging study bias came from a lack of clarity around allocation concealment and blinding of outcome assessors. Blinding of participants and personnel was not possible. The quality of the evidence ranged from very low to moderate overall. We did not pool physical function results at immediate‐term follow‐up due to considerable variation in results and inconsistency of direction of effect. We are uncertain whether physical activity interventions improve physical function compared with usual care. We found no evidence of effect of physical activity interventions compared to usual care on disease‐related mental health (anxiety: SMD ‐0.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) ‐0.40 to 0.18; 4 studies, 198 participants; I2 = 0%; and depression: SMD ‐0.21, 95% CI ‐0.50 to 0.08; 4 studies, 198 participants; I2 = 0%; moderate‐quality evidence) at short‐ or medium‐term follow‐up. Seven studies reported on adverse events. We did not pool adverse events due to inconsistency in reporting and measurement. We found no evidence of serious adverse events in the intervention or usual care groups. Minor adverse events, such as neck, back and muscle pain were most commonly reported. No studies reported on overall survival or recurrence‐free survival and no studies assessed outcomes at long‐term follow‐up

We found evidence of positive effects of physical activity interventions on the aerobic fitness component of physical fitness (SMD 0.82, 95% CI 0.34 to 1.29; 7 studies, 295; I2 = 68%; low‐quality evidence), cancer‐related fatigue (MD 2.16, 95% CI 0.18 to 4.15; 6 studies, 230 participants; I2 = 18%; low‐quality evidence) and health‐related quality of life (SMD 0.36, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.62; 6 studies, 230 participants; I2 = 0%; moderate‐quality evidence) at immediate‐term follow‐up. These positive effects were also observed at short‐term follow‐up but not medium‐term follow‐up. Only three studies reported medium‐term follow‐up for cancer‐related fatigue and health‐related quality of life.

Authors' conclusions
The findings of this review should be interpreted with caution due to the low number of studies included and the quality of the evidence. We are uncertain whether physical activity interventions improve physical function. Physical activity interventions may have no effect on disease‐related mental health. Physical activity interventions may be beneficial for aerobic fitness, cancer‐related fatigue and health‐related quality of life up to six months follow‐up. Where reported, adverse events were generally minor. Adequately powered RCTs of high methodological quality with longer‐term follow‐up are required to assess the effect of physical activity interventions on the disease‐related physical and mental health and on survival of people with non‐advanced colorectal cancer. Adverse events should be adequately reported.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD012864
Pages (from-to)1-133
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Volume2020
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2020

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