Assessment of Physical Performance Using the 6-Minute Walk Test in Children Receiving Treatment for Cancer

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Abstract

Background:

The study of physical performance in children with cancer is emerging as an important variable in symptom research. Studies have shown that children with cancer experience deficits in physical performance during treatment that may be present years after therapy.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to determine if distance on the 6-minute walk test (6MWT) changed in children during the first 3 cycles of cancer treatment and to compare the distances walked with healthy norms.

Methods:

This is a secondary data analysis of 19 boys and 10 girls, aged 6 to 17 years, who were newly diagnosed with cancer and were part of a larger study that measured changes in fatigue and physical performance during the first 3 cycles of chemotherapy. Participants performed the 6MWT between days 15 and 29 of the first and third cycles of chemotherapy.

Results:

Pediatric cancer patients did not have a significant change in the distance walked at cycle 3 of chemotherapy compared with cycle 1. When compared with 2 different normative data sets for healthy children, most children with cancer performed significantly below their peers.

Conclusions:

Children had poor strength and endurance after 3 cycles of chemotherapy even when their disease was responding to treatment. Interventions are needed to promote rehabilitation and maintenance of physical performance, as both are important to quality of life and ongoing child development.

Implications for Practice:

Children receiving cancer treatment who are ambulatory may appear to be functioning normally but are in fact severely deconditioned compared with their healthy peers.

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