Cancer rehabilitation as an essential component of quality care and survivorship from an international perspective

Sean R. Smith, Jasmine Y. Zheng, Julie Silver, Andrew J. Haig, Andrea Cheville

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Abstract: Background: There has recently been an emphasis on improving cancer care globally, including access to lifesaving treatment and earlier identification of disease. This will lead to more survivors stricken by impairments related to the early and late effects of cancer treatment. An unintended consequence of the noble plan to improve oncology care worldwide is demand on health care systems that may be unable to accommodate increased patient care needs for myriad reasons. As a result, those with disabilities may suffer. Methods: Literature search and input from experts in the field were used to evaluate the growing need for cancer rehabilitation and survivorship care to reduce morbidity associated with cancer treatment. Results: Many governmental and non-governmental organizations have started initiatives to improve cancer care across the continuum, and reduce the symptom burden of those living with cancer. While the start is promising, many barriers must be overcome to ensure high-quality care that would reduce cost and improve patient access, including a lack of trained rehabilitation specialists, poor coordination of efforts, and funding restrictions. Furthermore, global efforts to improve rehabilitation care often do not emphasize cancer rehabilitation, potentially leaving a gap and increasing physical and economic costs of disability. Finally, low-resource countries face unique challenges in improving cancer rehabilitation care. Conclusion: Cancer rehabilitation and survivorship care are needed to improve health care quality, as there is an expected influx of cancer patients with new global efforts to improve oncology care. To accomplish this, rehabilitation initiatives must emphasize cancer rehabilitation as a component of any program, and oncology endeavors should include a plan for the rehabilitation of cancer survivors to reduce morbidity and health care cost.Implications for Rehabilitation Cancer rehabilitation has the potential to reduce morbidity and health care costs associated with cancer and disability worldwide Advocacy from international organizations regarding cancer rehabilitation is increasing, but has been disjointed and incomplete Low-resource countries in particular face several barriers to providing cancer rehabilitation and survivorship care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-13
Number of pages6
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020


  • Cancer rehabilitation
  • cancer survivorship
  • global cancer rehabilitation
  • global oncology
  • global palliative care
  • global rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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