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West J Med. 1991 Oct; 155(4): 384–387.
PMCID: PMC1003019

Evaluating cancer patients for rehabilitation potential.


The Karnofsky performance scale is the most widely used method of quantifying cancer patients' ability to function. It has also been used to measure patients' function before and after treatment. Because identifying problems with function is the cornerstone of rehabilitating patients with cancer, we developed a table that relates the functional independence measure with the Karnofsky scale. This approach encourages oncologists to consider inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation services for a broader range of cancer patients. We assessed 70 cancer patients undergoing rehabilitation to identify similarities between the functional independence measure used at our facility and the Karnofsky scale. In activities we considered vital, only 14% of patients were independent with ambulation on admission and, at discharge, 80% were independent or supervised with ambulation. Toilet transfers and bowel and bladder continence improved by the time of discharge. Three months after they were discharged, 28 of the 37 patients had maintained their discharge function level or had improved. Of the original group, 19 had died.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Lehmann JF, DeLisa JA, Warren CG, deLateur BJ, Bryant PL, Nicholson CG. Cancer rehabilitation: assessment of need, development, and evaluation of a model of care. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1978 Sep;59(9):410–419. [PubMed]
  • Mor V, Laliberte L, Morris JN, Wiemann M. The Karnofsky Performance Status Scale. An examination of its reliability and validity in a research setting. Cancer. 1984 May 1;53(9):2002–2007. [PubMed]

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