Physical resilience of older cancer survivors: An emerging concept

W. Duan-Porter, Harvey Jay Cohen, W. Demark-Wahnefried, R. Sloane, J.F. Pendergast, D.C. Snyder, M.C. Morey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives: To characterize factors contributing to physical resilience in older cancer survivors, as demonstrated by resistance to decline or recovery (resilience). Materials and Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial of cancer survivors ≥ 65 years old and ≥ 5 years from cancer diagnoses. Physical function was assessed quarterly over 2 years, with Short-Form 36 physical function subscale. Participants with ≥ 2 follow-up assessments (n = 594) were evaluated for physical resilience: 1) Resistance was defined as lack of any decline, where decline was a drop of ≥ 13 points, and 2) resilience (i.e., recovery) was defined as regaining ≥ 50% of lost function, subsequent to decline. Results: Mean age was 73.1 years and 89.1% were Caucasian. Forty-nine percent (n = 289) were resistant to decline in function; these individuals were younger, had higher education and income, were more likely to be Caucasian, and had higher baseline physical function (mean difference [MD] 7.8 points, 95% CI 5.0–10.8) and general health (MD 7.5 points, 95% CI 4.9–10.1). Fifty-seven percent (n = 137 of 239) demonstrated resilience, with 91.2% (n = 125) recovering within 6 months of declines; these participants had higher baseline physical function (MD 6.6 points, 95% CI 1.8–11.4), but similar pre-decline function. More participants who were resistant, and more who showed resilience, reported high self-efficacy and social support. Conclusions: The majority of older cancer survivors exhibited physical resilience; this was associated with high baseline health, physical function, self-efficacy, and social support. Assessing and targeting psychosocial factors may be important for interventions seeking to promote physical resilience. © 2016
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-478
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Geriatric Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Cited By :3

Export Date: 26 December 2018

Correspondence Address: Duan-Porter, W.; Durham VA Medical Center, 508 Fulton St, United States; email:


  • Cancer survivors
  • Functional decline
  • Physical resilience
  • Recovery
  • Resistance
  • aged
  • Article
  • cancer diagnosis
  • cancer survivor
  • Caucasian
  • controlled study
  • education
  • educational status
  • ethnic difference
  • female
  • follow up
  • highest income group
  • human
  • male
  • physical capacity
  • physical performance
  • physical resilience
  • physical resistance
  • priority journal
  • randomized controlled trial (topic)
  • secondary analysis
  • self concept
  • Short Form 36
  • social support
  • convalescence
  • daily life activity
  • exercise
  • physiology
  • psychological resilience
  • psychology
  • randomized controlled trial
  • socioeconomics
  • United States
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recovery of Function
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors

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