Background & objectives: Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) undergoing chemoradiotherapy (CRT) suffer from fatigue causing a decrease in functional capacity and quality of life (QoL). Limited research in the field of exercise training among these patients demanded the need for this study to assess the effects of exercise training on functional capacity and quality of life.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted on 48 patients with HNC undergoing CRT. The exercise group received an individually tailored, supervised, exercise programme for six weeks, while the control group did not receive any form of exercise. Functional capacity and QoL were assessed at baseline and at the end of the intervention using the six minute walk distance (6MWD) and medical outcomes survey short form 36 (SF 36).
Results: The mean age of patients was 52 yr with 42 males. After six weeks, the 6MWD improved by 42 metres (P<0.05) in the exercise group while the control group showed a decrease by 96 metres (P<0.001). There was an improvement on the mental component score (MCS) of SF36 for the exercise group (4.8; P<0.05) and the physical component score (PCS) remained almost the same, while a decrease in PCS and MCS was seen in the control group (-5.9; P=0.064 and -17.3; P<0.05). When 6MWD and SF36 were compared between the groups, there was a statistically significant difference (P<0.001) seen after six weeks.
Interpretation & conclusions: Our results showed that the functional capacity and QoL decreased among those not receiving a supervised exercise program, while exercise training improved functional capacity and QoL in HNC patients undergoing CRT.