BACKGROUND: For a multi-center randomized trial investigating the effects of a 12-week physical and psychosocial intervention program for children with cancer, we invited 174 patients (8-18 years old) on treatment or within 1 year after treatment; about 40% participated. Reasons for non-participation were investigated.
METHODS: Eligible patients received written and verbal information about the study. Those declining to participate were asked to complete questionnaires concerning: reasons for non-participation, daily physical activity, health-related quality of life (HrQoL), and behavioral problems. Participants completed the same questionnaires at baseline (excluding 'reasons for non-participation').
RESULTS: Of 174 eligible patients, 106 did not participate; of these, 61 (57.5%) completed the one-time survey. The main reasons for non-participation as reported by the parents were 'too time consuming' and 'participation is too demanding for my child', while children most frequently reported 'too time consuming' and 'already frequently engaged in sports'. No differences between participants and non-participants were found for age, HrQoL, parental-reported behavior problems, sport participation, school type, BMI, and perceived health. A greater distance from home to hospital resulted in reduced participation (β: -0.02; p = 0.01). Non-participants rated their fitness level higher (p = 0.03). Participating children (11-18 years old) reported more behavioral problems (p = 0.02), in particular internalizing problems (p = 0.06).
CONCLUSIONS: Participation of childhood cancer patients in an intensive physical and psychosocial intervention program seems related to the burden of the intervention and the travel distance from home to hospital. In general, non-participants rated their fitness level higher compared with participants. Patients with more (internalizing) behavioral problems seem more likely to participate in the study.