Exercise therapy during cancer treatment reduces symptom burden and improves quality of life (QoL). Polycythemia vera (PV) is a myeloproliferative neoplasia associated with good overall survival (up to decades) but a significant symptom burden, including thromboembolic events and dysesthesias. There are no specific exercise recommendations for patients with PV. Thus, we aimed to determine the exercise preferences of patients with PV and to derive specific recommendations based on the most commonly reported symptoms.
This multicenter survey included patients with PV ≥18 years old. Demographic, clinical, and disease burden data were collected. The severity of selected symptoms was assessed using the adapted Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Symptom Assessment Form: 0 (absent), 1–30 (mild), 31–70 (moderate), or 71–100 (severe). The patients’ information needs about physical activity (PA) and exercise preferences were recorded depending on their motivation and analyzed with regard to demographic aspects.
The sample comprised 182 patients (68% female, 61 ± 12 years). The prevalence of moderate-to-severe symptoms was 60% for fatigue, 44% for concentration problems, and 35% for bone/muscle pain. Other commonly reported symptoms included skin reactions (49%), splenomegaly (35%), and increased bleeding tendency (28%). Overall, 67% of respondents requested more information regarding PA. Patients with PV preferred individual training (79%) located outdoors (79%) or at home (56%). Regarding the amount of training, sports-inactive patients preferred a frequency of 1–2 times/week and session durations of 15–45 min, whereas sports-active patients preferred 3–4 times/week and 30–60 min (p < 0.001). Higher sport-inactiveness was observed in patients with lower educational level compared to patients with higher educational level (69% vs. 50%, p = 0.021). For beginners, combined resistance-endurance (circuit) training two times/week, which can be performed outdoors or at home, should be recommended. In the case of splenomegaly or bleeding symptoms, exercises with a low injury risk should be chosen.
PA is important for patients with PV; therefore, counseling should be integrated into the treatment plan. Specifically, patients with low educational level should be addressed. Prospective studies are warranted to evaluate the effects of the novel exercise recommendations.