Functional Disability Among U.S. Cancer Survivors, 2017–2022

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In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cao et al found that U.S. adult cancer survivors had higher levels of mobility disability and self-care disability than adults without a cancer diagnosis.

Study Details

The study focused on data from 47,768 adult cancer survivors (aged ≥ 18 years) and 2,432,754 adults without a cancer diagnosis from the 2017–2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The major outcome measures were mobility disability (ie, serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs) and self-care disability (ie, difficulty dressing or bathing).

Key Findings

The prevalence of mobility disability was 27.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 27.1%–28.7%) among cancer survivors vs 13.4% (95% CI = 13.3%–13.5%) among adults without cancer. The prevalence of self-care disability was 7.4% (95% CI = 6.9%–7.9%) vs 3.8% (95% CI = 3.8%–3.9%). On multivariate analysis, odds ratios (ORs) for mobility disability and self-care disability for survivors vs adults without cancer were 1.21 (95% CI = 1.16–1.26) and 1.19 (95% CI = 1.10–1.29), respectively.

Among cancer survivors, the prevalence of mobility disability (34.9% vs 26.3%; OR = 1.32) and self-care disability (9.8% vs 6.7%; OR = 1.22) was higher among those receiving active cancer treatment vs those who had completed cancer treatment. Also among cancer survivors, increased risks of mobility disability/self-care disability were associated with racial/ethnic minority groups (ORs vs White patients = 1.14–1.36/1.45–2.53); low physical activity (ORs for inactive vs active = 2.79/2.59); chronic vs no chronic conditions (ORs = 3.89/3.79); presence vs absence of  cancer- or treatment-related pain (ORs = 1.97/1.95); as well as higher body mass index and lower levels of education or income.  

Patterns of mobility disability and self-care disability varied across cancer types. Among survivors with common cancers, the prevalence of mobility disability was 28.0% for breast, 22.9% for prostate, 42.0% for larynx/trachea and lung, and 28.8% for colorectal cancers. The prevalence of self-care disability was 18.7% for bone, 16% for brain, and 15.3% for oral cavity/pharynx cancers.

The investigators concluded: “Over a quarter of U.S. cancer survivors reported mobility disability, and nearly 10% reported self-care disability, with patterns varying across cancer types and treatment status. Racial/ethnic minorities, along with underserved groups and individuals with unhealthy lifestyles or comorbidities, were notably more affected by functional disabilities, underscoring the need for targeted disability prevention efforts.”

Jennifer A. Ligibel, MD, of the Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, is the corresponding author of the Journal of Clinical Oncology article. 

Disclosure: The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.