Despite growing interest in advanced cancer patients' quality of life, little attention has been directed toward preservation or recovery of their function. Although there is a dearth of supportive literature, extensive experience with other advanced disease populations suggests that standard, widely available rehabilitation strategies can enhance function in cancer. Logistic challenges to the provision of adequate rehabilitation to advanced cancer patients is discussed in this article, based on the author's experience and discussions in the literature. Common sources of functional impairment are reviewed with elucidation of rehabilitation approaches likely to benefit affected patients. Appropriate physical and occupational therapy techniques, as well as appropriate orthotics, assistive devices, and environmental modifications, are outlined for each of these impairments. In the author's view, rehabilitation should be considered for all advanced cancer patients experiencing functional decline. Pathways and referral patterns need to be established so that timely and appropriate functional restoration may occur.
Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.