Occupational and Physical Therapy May Improve Mental Health for Older Adults With Cancer

June 03, 2017

Older adults with cancer can have limited functional and health status; however, occupational (OT) and physical therapy (PT) are underused resources of care in this patient population. Researchers evaluated an outpatient CAncer REhabilitation (CARE) intervention program for this older adults in comparison to usual care. The study’s findings were presented at the ASCO Annual Meeting (http://abstracts.asco.org/199/AbstView_199_187215.html).

The researchers recruited 51 adults 65 years of age or older who had a diagnosis of cancer or recurrence within the past five years and had at least one functional limitation based on a geriatric assessment. The median patient age was 73 years, 55% were male, and 92% were Caucasian. Patients had leukemia or lymphoma (33%), breast cancer (26%), or colorectal cancer (22%). A majority (67%) were receiving treatment, and 37% had stage III or IV disease.

The CARE program included individualized outpatient intervention, with OT addressing functional activities and PT addressing strength and endurance needs. Patients in the usual care group received a brochure on supportive care services.

After three months, those receiving usual care (p = 0.046) and partaking in the CARE program (p = 0.005) both experienced a significant decline in functional status (determined using the Nottingham Extended Activities of Daily Living Scale). Comparatively, the CARE program did not significantly improve functional status (−1.5 versus −1.1; p = 0.637), physical health status (0.0 versus 2.4; p = 0.121), or participation in social roles and activities (determined using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System; 0.11 versus 3.71; p = 0.088) compared to usual care. However, change in mental health status was significantly improved in the CARE program cohort (−1.0 versus 3.0; p = 0.032).

“We demonstrated that for older adults with cancer, OT and PT are promising interventions to improve mental health,” the authors concluded. They noted that larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.

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