Physiotherapy programme reduces fatigue in patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care: randomized controlled trial

Support Care Cancer. 2017 Sep;25(9):2899-2908. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-3742-4. Epub 2017 May 16.


Purpose: Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common and relevant symptom in patients with advanced cancer that significantly decreases their quality of life. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of a physiotherapy programme on CRF and other symptoms in patients diagnosed with advanced cancer.

Methods: The study was designed as a randomized controlled trial. Sixty patients diagnosed with advanced cancer receiving palliative care were randomized into two groups: the treatment group (n = 30) and the control group (n = 30). The therapy took place three times a week for 2 weeks. The 30-min physiotherapy session included active exercises, myofascial release and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) techniques. The control group did not exercise. The outcomes included Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI), Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and satisfaction scores.

Results: The exercise programme caused a significant reduction in fatigue scores (BFI) in terms of severity of fatigue and its impact on daily functioning. In the control group, no significant changes in the BFI were observed. Moreover, the physiotherapy programme improved patients' general well-being and reduced the intensity of coexisting symptoms such as pain, drowsiness, lack of appetite and depression. The analysis of satisfaction scores showed that it was also positively evaluated by patients.

Conclusion: The physiotherapy programme, which included active exercises, myofascial release and PNF techniques, had beneficial effects on CRF and other symptoms in patients with advanced cancer who received palliative care. The results of the study suggest that physiotherapy is a safe and effective method of CRF management.

Keywords: Cancer-related fatigue; Exercises; Palliative care; Physiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*