Cancer rehabilitation into the future
The 5-year survival for many cancer sites exceeds 50%, suggesting that these patients are living longer and may be considered to have a chronic illness. The incidence of cancer increases from 500 in 100,000 to 2000-4000 in 100,000 as women or men age from 50 to 80 years. Our population is aging and the prevalence of cancer is increasing. Treatments for cancer are quite complex, and they are often delivered to elders who have a variety of medical problems and are receiving additional medications that may complicate overall patient management. Hence, these patients may have extremely complex functional problems. Cancer patients need comprehensive care designed to relieve symptoms of pain, fatigue, and weakness. They need education to help support their ability to reach functional independence and maintain quality of life. Rehabilitation professionals are essential for the comprehensive care of cancer patients throughout the phases of their disease: treatment planning, treatment, remission, recurrence, and end of life. The needs of this population can better be served if several processes are put into effect. Rehabilitation professionals must be trained to manage problems associated with cancer and its treatments. Research about what are effective and efficient rehabilitation treatments must be done to determine how best to treat cancer patients throughout the various phases of their illness. Physicians and patients must be alerted to the importance of rehabilitation interventions to the overall function of these patients.