Cancer Rehabilitation: An Overview of Current Need, Delivery Models, and Levels of Care

Andrea L. Cheville, Karen Mustian, Kerri Winters-Stone, David S. Zucker, Gail L. Gamble, Catherine M. Alfano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The relevance of cancer rehabilitation as a public health issue grows steadily as cancer incidence, survival, and mean patient age increase. Reported rates of physical impairment and disability are already high, prior to the anticipated influx of aged cancer survivors. Despite the high prevalence of cancer-related disablement, treatment rates, even for readily remediable physical impairments, are as low as 1–2%. In addition to low referral rates, a challenge to patient-centric cancer rehabilitation is a fractured system that requires multiple visits to a range of specialists to address even a single issue, and cancer survivors generally have several. Effective solutions must acknowledge the limited cancer rehabilitation clinical work force and its clustering in tertiary centers, as well as the lack of consensus regarding the essential and effective components of a cancer rehabilitation program. A number of models of cancer rehabilitation service delivery have been developed, but, as yet, none have been empirically validated. This paper describes these models and proposes a taxonomy for stratifying the needs of cancer survivors. Modalities used to preserve or restore function among survivors range from simple, relatively intuitive activities to complex, integrated programs that include diagnostic and multi-modal pharmacological, manual, and even procedural interventions. Criteria for determining a survivor's needs across this spectrum are proposed, and the role of the physiatrist as a vital advocate and champion discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPhysical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Cancer rehabilitation
  • Delivery models
  • Levels of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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