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Disability in activities of daily living among adults with cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-106
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
Early online date28 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


King's Authors


INTRODUCTION: People with cancer frequently report limitation in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs); essential activities required to live independently within society. Although several studies have assessed ADL related disability, variability in assessment, setting, and population means evidence is difficult to interpret. We aimed to determine the prevalence of ADL related disability, overall and by setting, and the most commonly affected ADLs in people living with cancer.

METHODS: We searched twelve databases to June 2016 for observational studies assessing ADL disability in adults with cancer. Data on study design, population, ADL instruments and disability (difficulty with or requiring assistance in ≥1 activity) were extracted, summarised, and pooled to estimate disability prevalence with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) overall and by setting.

RESULTS: Forty-three studies comprising 19,246 patients were included. Overall, 36.7% (95% CI 29.8-44.3, 18 studies) and 54.6% (95% CI 46.5-62.3, 15 studies) of patients respectively reported disability relating to basic and instrumental ADLs. Disability was marginally more prevalent in inpatient compared to outpatient settings. The Katz Index (18 studies) and Lawton IADL Scale (11 studies) were the most commonly used instruments. Across the activities studied, the most frequently affected basic ADLs were personal hygiene, walking and transfers, and instrumental ADLs were housework, shopping and transportation.

CONCLUSIONS: About one-third and half of adults with cancer respectively have difficulty or require assistance to perform basic and instrumental ADLs. These findings highlight the need for rehabilitation focused on functional independence, and underscore the importance of professionals skilled in occupational assessment and therapy within cancer services.

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