Physical functioning and rehabilitation for the cancer survivor

Semin Oncol. 2013 Dec;40(6):784-95. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2013.09.008.


There are more than 13.8 million survivors of cancer living in the United States. Up to 20% of survivors of childhood-onset and 53% of survivors of adult-onset cancer have problems with physical function as a result of their cancer and or its treatment. These problems may be immediately apparent, during, or soon after initial cancer treatment, or may appear days, months, or years later as the cancer survivor ages. Unfortunately, rehabilitation services and providers are not easily or systematically accessible in today's healthcare system. Rehabilitation services that restore or ameliorate early functional loss or that protect against or minimize the impact of later-onset organ system dysfunction are available, at least in larger comprehensive cancer center settings. This report describes physical function, details the evolution of cancer rehabilitation, and identifies cancer survivors who may benefit from rehabilitation services. Additionally, the evidence for specific approaches to rehabilitation, intervention, and prevention of functional loss are reviewed. Finally, we summarize the mechanisms used to measure physical function and stress the need for additional research to support rehabilitation services for cancer survivors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nutrition Therapy*
  • Occupational Therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function
  • Social Participation
  • Survivors