The Where and What of Physical Activities Programs for Children With Cancer

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Disease- and treatment-related factors can affect the ability of children with cancer to participate in physical activities.
Disease- and treatment-related factors can affect the ability of children with cancer to participate in physical activities.

An international “environmental scan,” an assessment conducted through a review of 5 separate data sources, of physical activity programs being offered for children with cancer revealed that 46 programs in 10 countries were classified as established and ongoing, offered cardiovascular, resistance, and/or flexibility and resistance training, and included a team member fluent in English or German, as well as meeting other criteria.

Disease- and treatment-related factors, including fatigue, cardiotoxicity, and lack of confidence or support, can affect the ability of children with cancer to participate in physical activities. Thus, structured physical activity programs have been specifically designed for this population with the intention of helping these children overcome some of the physical challenges associated with cancer treatment and survivorship.

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Physical activity programs were identified through the professional networks of members of the study team, Internet searches, systematic searches of the literature and electronic databases, and snowball sampling where study participants recruited other study participants.

Of the 163 unique correspondents identified, 140 were contacted, and 112 (80%) responded. The researchers subsequently determined that 46 of the programs met eligibility criteria. Of these 46 programs, 32 were operating in Europe, with 21 programs in Germany, only 3 programs operated in the United States, and 3 in Canada.  

Several common characteristics of these programs included participation on- and off-treatment by children with varying cancer types, supervision by trained professionals, a recognized importance of medical clearance, and patient recruitment involving healthcare providers.

“There is a pressing need for international networks, multi-site collaborations, and public relations to strengthen the case for implementing physical activity as part

of care for children diagnosed with cancer, ultimately ensuring this population has access to physical activity programs as a means of enhancing their health and quality of life,” the authors concluded.

Reference

Wurz A, Daeggelmann J, Albinati N, Kronlund L, Chamorro-Viña C, Culos-Reed SN.  Physical activity programs for children diagnosed with cancer: an international environmental scan [published online February 6, 2019]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-04669-5

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