What Is Cancer Rehabilitation?

Cancer rehabilitation is a process that helps cancer survivors obtain and maintain the maximal possible physical, social, psychological, and vocational functioning within the limits created by cancer and its treatments (Stubblefield, 2020).

I have written two articles about cancer rehabilitation for Conquer Magazine, the official patient magazine of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators:

2020 December, Conquer Magazine, Cancer Rehabilitation: Creating Your Parallel Universe of Healing. To read the article, click here: Conquer Dec 2020 Creating Your Parallel Universe of Healing.

2019 October, Conquer Magazine, “Is Cancer Rehabilitation a Good Option for You? It’s Never Too Late to Ask for a Referral. To read the article, click here: Conquer Oct 2019 Is Cancer Rehabilitation A Good Option for You? It’s Never Too Late to Ask for a Referral.

Cancer rehabilitation practitioners include Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physicians (MD/OD), physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and recreation therapists, among others, who have extensive training to address the complex needs of individuals diagnosed with cancer. Cancer rehabilitation practitioners possess the skills to safely, effectively, and compassionately address the serious physical and cognitive challenges commonly associated with cancer and its treatment including pain and fatigue, weakness, swelling, stiffness, and cognitive decline. Cancer rehabilitation services include treatment of acute and chronic effects of cancer and cancer treatments, addressing pre-existing or treatment-related comorbid conditions, teaching self-management and health promotion skills to decrease the risk of late effects and recurrence, and providing psychosocial support (Alfano et al., 2016)

Cancer rehabilitation services are delivered, ideally, by a multidisciplinary team and begin with assessment and referrals at the time of diagnosis.  The preoperative assessment establishes baseline functioning and pre-existing conditions to inform services that will be delivered throughout treatment. After the initial assessment, cancer rehabilitation practitioners engage in ongoing surveillance efforts throughout cancer treatment and for the balance of life, resulting in early identification of symptoms and impairments, appropriate referral and timely treatment, and the ability to better address and minimize both acute and long-term care (Alfano et al., 2016).

2016 Alfano Developing High-Quality Cancer Rehabilitation Programs: A Timely Need


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