Background: Fatigue remains a prevalent and debilitating symptom in persons with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Exercise has been shown to be effective in reducing fatigue, yet interventions are limited for postsurgical NSCLC patients. To date, while surgery is offered as a standard curative treatment for NSCLC, no formal guidelines exist for postsurgical rehabilitation.
Objective: This study focuses on the design and testing of a postsurgical intervention for NSCLC patients to promote perceived self-efficacy for fatigue self-management targeting cancer-related fatigue (CRF) severity and its associated fatigability through exercise.
Methods: A 2-arm randomized controlled trial was used to examine the impact of a 6-week rehabilitative CRF self-management exercise intervention on 37 NSCLC participants compared with 35 control group participants receiving usual care from diagnosis to 6 weeks' postsurgical hospital discharge.
Results: We exceeded goals for recruitment (66%), retention (97%), adherence (93%), and acceptability. Our 6-week exercise intervention demonstrated preliminary efficacy in significantly reducing CRF severity and fatigability as compared with usual care, with mean CRF levels restored to levels lower than presurgery. Likewise, the exercise group's functional performance (physical and mental health scores) exceeded usual care. Furthermore, no adverse events were reported; participants had a mean age of 67 years and a mean of 8 comorbid conditions.
Conclusions: An exercise intervention for postsurgical NSCLC patients is feasible, safe, and highly acceptable showing positive changes in CRF self-management.
Implications for practice: To advance practice, testing of the effectiveness of this health-promoting self-management exercise intervention in a larger-scale randomized controlled trial is needed.