Cancer‐related fatigue is one of the most distressing side effects of childhood cancer treatment. Physical activity can decrease fatigue and has positive effects on other health outcomes. Most research on physical activity pertains to adults, and the few studies that focus on children have limited follow‐up time. This study evaluates cancer‐related fatigue in children and its association with physical activity over a one‐year time period.
Sixty‐eight children with cancer (7–18 years) were recruited during or within the first year after treatment. Physical activity (Actical activity monitor) and cancer‐related fatigue (Pediatric Quality‐of‐Life Questionnaire Multidimensional Fatigue Scale (PedsQL‐MFS), self‐ and parent‐ reports) were assessed at baseline, 4 months, and 12 months. PedsQL‐MFS scores were compared with Dutch norms. Longitudinal association of cancer‐related fatigue with physical activity was evaluated (No. NTR 1531).
Generally, PedsQL‐MFS scores were worse than norms at baseline and 4 months, and recovered by 12 months except for the parent‐proxy scores in adolescents. Younger children (≤12 years) self‐reported comparable or better scores than norms. Physical activity generally improved over time, but patients mostly remained sedentary. During follow‐up, increased physical activity was associated with less cancer‐related fatigue.
Cancer‐related fatigue in children improves over time, and increased physical activity is associated with less cancer‐related fatigue. Given the sedentary lifestyle of this population, the positive effect of physical activity on cancer‐related fatigue, and the many other health benefits of an active lifestyle, it is important to stimulate physical activity in childhood cancer patients and survivors.