Article first published online: 13 NOV 2015
National guidelines recommend that patients with a cancer diagnosis engage in regular physical activity to reduce cancer-related fatigue, maintain quality of life and physical function, and improve overall prognosis and survival. This study investigates oncology provider communications about physical activity during routine clinic visits with patients with early-stage breast, colon, or prostate cancer.
This study used a retrospective chart review for documentation of inquiries or recommendations pertaining to physical activity in clinician notes and after-visit patient summaries.
In a 1-month period, 55 oncology providers had 361 encounters (clinic visits) with early-stage cancer patients. Thirty-five percent of these encounters included a provider communication about “physical activity,” “exercise,” or “activity.” Encounters with a medical oncologist resulted in a physical activity communication 55% of the time, whereas encounters with other clinician specialties did so 20% of the time (P < .0001). The likelihood of a physical activity communication increased with patient age (P < .001). When the encounter was with a patient who was being seen for surveillance, chemotherapy, or endocrine treatment, the rate of physical activity communications was significantly higher (46%, 37%, and 58%, respectively) than the rate when the visit was during radiation treatment or surgery (6% and 19%, respectively; P < .0001).
This study shows that it is feasible for oncology providers to have physical activity communications during routine clinic visits; however, the frequency of physical activity communications varies among providers. Interventions are needed to remind and encourage all oncology providers to encourage their patients with early-stage cancer to be physically active.