Research Paper| Volume 14, ISSUE 2, 101426, March 2023

Do clinicians address impairments in muscle strength and physical performance for older adults with cancer?

Published:January 24, 2023DOI:



      Low physical function is associated with adverse outcomes in older adults with cancer, but evidence on real-world, clinical management of low physical function in oncology is lacking. We explored whether impairments in muscle strength and/or physical performance triggered downstream management by clinicians, the types of recommended strategies, and the reasons for not providing a referral/strategy for addressing such impairments in older cancer survivors prior to treatment.

      Materials and Methods

      We conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional study of older adults who completed a comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) prior to cancer treatment in a tertiary cancer centre. Muscle strength and physical performance were assessed through grip strength and the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), respectively. Patients who exhibited an impairment in grip strength and/or SPPB were classified as having abnormal objective physical function. Downstream management strategies and clinicians' reasons for not providing referrals were retrieved from clinical notes and an institutional database.


      In total, 515 older adults (mean age: 80.7 years) were included. Low grip strength and/or SPPB combined was observed in 66.4% (n = 342) of participants, of whom 54.1% (n = 185) received an acceptable intervention. However, 41.2% (n = 141) were not provided with a referral/strategy by clinicians to address such impairments following CGA. No reasons were provided in clinical notes for not addressing impairments in physical function for 100 participants (70.9%).


      Many older adults with cancer have impaired physical function prior to treatment. However, we found that such impairments are not systematically addressed by clinicians, and documentation was often suboptimal, identifying gaps in patient care that need to be addressed.


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