Objective: A multidimensional rehabilitation program for cancer survivors was developed to overcome cancer-related problems and to improve quality of life. The two purposes of the study were to describe the effectiveness of the program and to obtain information about patient preferences for multi or mono dimensional rehabilitation programs.
Subjects: cancer survivors with different diagnoses, and cancer-related physical and psychosocial problems.
Intervention: a 15-week rehabilitation program including individual exercise, sports, psycho-education, and information. Group-wise randomization was implemented by assigning one half of the patients to the complete program while the other half were allowed to choose which program components they considered relevant.
Measures: Health-Related Quality of Life [RAND-36 and Rotterdam Symptom Check List (RSCL)], exercise capacity (symptom limited bicycle ergometry), muscle force (hand-held dynamometry), and patient preferences. Measurements were performed before (T0) and after the rehabilitation program (T1), and at a 3-month follow-up (T2).
Results: After the rehabilitation program, cancer survivors (n=63) displayed statistically significant improvements on health-related quality of life with effect sizes (ES) varying from 0.38 to 0.99 (RAND-36) and from -0.34 to -0.57 (RSCL), most persistent at 3-month follow-up. Furthermore, statistically significant improvements in exercise capacity and muscle force of upper and lower extremities were displayed after rehabilitation. If offered a choice, 80% of the patients prior to start and 58% of the patients after completion of the program indicated that they preferred the entire multidimensional program.
Conclusion: A multidimensional rehabilitation program has statistically and clinically relevant beneficial effects on health-related quality of life, exercise capacity, and muscle force in cancer patients with different diagnoses. Furthermore, if offered the choice, the majority of cancer survivors seem to prefer multidimensional programs to programs with only one component.