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Cancer Rehabilitation

What is cancer rehabilitation?

Cancer rehabilitation is a doctor-supervised program for people who have undergone treatment for cancer, and designed to help patients return to activities of daily living. People who have survived cancer may have physical, emotional, and social issues that affect their quality of life, no matter what kind of cancer they have been treated for. Cancer rehabilitation programs can often improve function, reduce pain, and improve the well-being of cancer survivors.

The cancer rehabilitation team

Cancer rehabilitation programs can be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the cancer rehabilitation team, including any or all of the following:

  • Oncologist

  • Physiatrist

  • Internist

  • Other specialty doctors

  • Rehabilitation specialists

  • Registered dietitian

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Social worker

  • Psychologist/psychiatrist

  • Recreational therapist

  • Case manager

  • Chaplain

  • Vocational counselor

The cancer rehabilitation program

A cancer rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending on the specific type of cancer and treatment. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of cancer rehabilitation is to help patients return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life physically, emotionally, and socially. These goals are often met by:

  • Managing pain

  • Improving bowel and bladder function

  • Improving nutritional status

  • Improving physical conditioning, endurance, and exercise performance

  • Improving social, cognitive, emotional, and vocational status

  • Reducing hospitalizations

In order to help reach these goals, cancer rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • Using medications and pain management techniques to reduce pain

  • Exercise programs to help build strength and endurance

  • Patient and family education and counseling

  • Activities to improve mobility (movement) and decrease sleep problems

  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, handwriting, cooking, and basic housekeeping

  • Smoking cessation

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression management

  • Nutritional counseling

  • Management of chronic illness or complications due to cancer treatments

  • Vocational counseling