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The study included 102 white men and women aged 66 or 67 who underwent pancreatic cancer surgery and were divided into two groups just before they were discharged from the hospital.
One group was sent home with normal instructions that did not include a walking or exercise routine. The other group was told to walk for increasingly long intervals each week for three months. The goal was to walk 90 to 150 minutes per week by the end of the program.
At the start of the study, 85 percent of all patients reported moderate to severe fatigue. By the end of the study, improvements in fatigue levels were reported by 27 percent of those in the walking group and 19 percent of those in the control group. The patients in the walking group also reported less pain than those in the control group.
The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
"The beauty of this program is that we're not asking for high-intensity aerobics or a target heart rate," lead author Theresa Yeo, an associate professor of nursing at Thomas Jefferson University School of Nursing in Philadelphia, said in a journal news release. "It's low to moderate intensity, and they can sit if they need to. They don't have to push through it if they are not feeling well that day."
Chronic fatigue affects up to 96 percent of people who are treated for cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
"The message in pancreatic cancer care has typically been that these patients are just too sick to do this, but that's not true anymore," Yeo said. "There is no reason that patients can't become active, even if they did not exercise before."
-- Robert Preidt
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Surgeons, news release, April 2, 2012