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Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2016;35:241-9. doi: 10.14694/EDBK_156164.

Developing High-Quality Cancer Rehabilitation Programs: A Timely Need.

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From American Cancer Society, Washington, DC; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Program to Enhance Care Experiences Through Research, Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; University of Rochester Medical Center, Wilmot Cancer Institute, Rochester, NY.


The number of survivors of cancer in the United States, already 14.5 million, is growing with improved cancer treatment and aging of the population. Two-thirds of cancer survivors will be older than age 65 and are likely to enter cancer treatment already deconditioned and with multiple comorbidities. Survivors of cancer face numerous adverse consequences of cancer treatment that add to or exacerbate the effects of existing comorbidities and increase risk of functional decline. Many of these problems are amenable to rehabilitation interventions, but referral to cancer rehabilitation professionals is not a standard part of care. We present an expanded prospective model of surveillance, cancer rehabilitation assessment, and referral efforts using a multidisciplinary team approach. In this model, cancer rehabilitation begins at the time of cancer diagnosis and continues through and beyond cancer treatment. Physical impairments and psychosocial symptoms are assessed and treated, and lifestyle and exercise interventions are provided to optimize functioning, health, and quality of life. We present a stepped-care framework to guide decisions on when, how, and where to refer survivors to cancer rehabilitation specialists depending on safety requirements and needs. This model has the potential to result in early identification of symptoms and impairments, appropriate referral and timely treatment, and, in turn, will better address and minimize both acute and long-term cancer morbidity.

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