Physical activity and quality of life in head and neck cancer survivors

Academic Article


  • Purpose: To examine the prevalence of exercise in head and neck cancer survivors and determine preliminary associations with quality of life (QoL), fatigue, and depression. Materials and methods: Fifty-nine of 65 (91%) eligible head and neck cancer survivors recruited from an academic oncology clinic completed a self-administered survey including the modified Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire and Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Head & Neck (FACT-H&N), which includes physical, social, emotional and functional well-being (FWB) as well as additional concerns, and the FACT-General (FACT-G). Medical variables were obtained by medical record review. Results: The majority of participants were men (83%) and were Caucasian (92%), with mean age of 58±12.8. Cancer sites were primarily the oral cavity (24%), oropharynx (37%), or larynx (25%), with 20% being stage I, 7% stage II, 19% stage III, and 54% stage IV disease. Chemotherapy and/or radiation were ongoing in 14% of the participants. Half of the participants (51%) were diagnosed <6 months ago. Only three (5%) participants reported any vigorous exercise minutes (M=7.3±35.4), and only seven (12%) participants reported any moderate exercise minutes (M=19.5±70.6). Light exercise was reported by 26 (44%) (M=83.4±147.1). Only five (8.5%) participants were meeting current public health exercise guidelines. Partial correlations adjusting for age, medical comorbidity, and alcohol use showed that the total exercise minutes (i.e., light + moderate + vigorous) was positively associated with FWB (r=0.30, p=0.027), FACT-G (r=0.25, p=0.071), and FACT-H&N (r=0.26, p=0.064), was negatively associated with fatigue (r=-0.27, p=0.051), and had no association with depression (r=0.10, p=0.500). Conclusions: Few head and neck cancer survivors are participating in any moderate or vigorous exercise, and over half are completely sedentary. Meaningful and potentially beneficial associations between total exercise minutes, QoL, and fatigue were demonstrated. An exercise intervention may have utility in this understudied cancer survivor group. Further research is warranted. © Springer-Verlag 2006.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rogers LQ; Courneya KS; Robbins KT; Malone J; Seiz A; Koch L; Rao K; Nagarkar M
  • Start Page

  • 1012
  • End Page

  • 1019
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • 10