Rehabilitation following cancer treatment Journal Articles uri icon

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  • PURPOSE: Cancer survivorship is increasing. However, life-saving treatments often leave people with physical, cognitive and emotional sequelae that contribute to activity and participation limitations. The purpose of this review is to summarize current evidence regarding rehabilitation interventions to address problems during survivorship. METHOD: Best evidence synthesis. The review took as its starting point a systematic review of patient needs and supportive care interventions following cancer treatment. The study team identified the needs which could be addressed by rehabilitation and suggested others not originally included. Then they built on the earlier review's conclusions regarding effective intervention through extraction of results from subsequent systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials. RESULTS: Evidence regarding the effectiveness of potential rehabilitation interventions was reviewed for physical functioning, fatigue, pain, sexual functioning, cognitive functioning, depression, employment, nutrition and participation. With the exception of physical rehabilitation interventions following breast cancer, this literature tends to focus on psychoeducational interventions, which have demonstrated limited effectiveness for rehabilitation outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Most of the knowledge available regarding potential rehabilitation interventions comes from psychosocial oncology literature. While there are limitations, this literature provides an excellent starting point to examine the potential effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions within cancer survivorship programs. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: Good evidence exists for the use of exercise/physical rehabilitation in reducing fatigue after treatment for most cancers, and improving upper extremity functioning following treatment for breast cancer. Preliminary evidence exists in a number of areas that may be improved by rehabilitation interventions, such as pain, sexual functioning, cognitive functioning and return to work, but further research is needed. No intervention studies addressing participation limitations were identified. Rehabilitation professionals are encouraged to take the lead in exploring participation limitations among cancer survivors and developing suitable interventions.


  • Egan, Mary Y
  • McEwen, Sara
  • Sikora, Lindsey
  • Chasen, Martin
  • Fitch, Margaret
  • Eldred, Susan

publication date

  • December 2013