Multidimensional rehabilitation programmes (MDRPs) have developed in response to the growing number of people living with and surviving cancer. MDRPs comprise a physical component and a psychosocial component. Studies of the effectiveness of these programmes have not been reviewed and synthesised.
To conduct a systematic review of studies examining the effectiveness of MDRPs in terms of maintaining or improving the physical and psychosocial well-being of adult cancer survivors.
We conducted electronic searches in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsychINFO up to February 2012.
Selection criteria focused on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of multidimensional interventions for adult cancer survivors. Interventions had to include a physical component and a psychosocial component and to have been carried out on two or more occasions following completion of primary cancer treatment. Outcomes had to be assessed using validated measures of physical health and psychosocial well-being. Non-English language papers were included.
Data collection and analysis
Pairs of review authors independently selected trials, rated their methodological quality and extracted relevant data. Although meta-analyses of primary and secondary endpoints were planned there was a high level of study heterogeneity and only one common outcome measure (SF-36) could be statistically synthesised. In addition, we conducted a narrative analysis of interventions, particularly in terms of inspecting and identifying intervention components, grouping or categorising interventions and examining potential common links and outcomes.
Twelve RCTs (comprising 1669 participants) met the eligibility criteria. We judged five studies to have a moderate risk of bias and assessed the remaining seven as having a high risk of bias. It was possible to include SF-36 physical health component scores from five studies in a meta-analysis. Participating in a MDRP was associated with an increase in SF-36 physical health component scores (mean difference (MD) 2.22, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.12 to 4.31, P = 0.04). The findings from the narrative analysis suggested that MDRPs with a single domain or outcome focus appeared to be more successful than programmes with multiple aims. In addition, programmes that comprised participants with different types of cancer compared to cancer site-specific programmes were more likely to show positive improvements in physical outcomes. The most effective mode of service delivery appeared to be face-to-face contact supplemented with at least one follow-up telephone call. There was no evidence to indicate that MDRPs which lasted longer than six months improved outcomes beyond the level attained at six months. In addition, there was no evidence to suggest that services were more effective if they were delivered by a particular type of health professional.
There is some evidence to support the effectiveness of brief, focused MDRPs for cancer survivors. Rigorous and methodologically sound clinical trials that include an economic analysis are required.