Cancer Rehabilitation in Geriatric Patients

  • Sarah Wittry
  • Diana Molinares
  • Susan Maltser
Part of the Handbooks in Health, Work, and Disability book series (SHHDW)


The goal of cancer rehabilitation is to diagnose and treat patients’ physical, psychological, and cognitive impairments, throughout the oncology care continuum. Rehabilitation professionals aim to help patients restore function, reduce symptom burden, improve quality of life, and maximize independence. Geriatric cancer patients and survivors are prone to developing disabilities from cancer and its treatments, significantly impairing their functional independence. By forming dynamic and clinically appropriate goals with patients and their families, health-related outcomes can be improved. The stages of cancer rehabilitation include preventative, restorative, supportive, and palliative. Delivery settings include acute, subacute, home health, outpatient, and home exercise prescriptions. Precautions are discussed, as well as the impact of falls and pathologic fractures. Specific oncologic knowledge in regards to indications and contraindications is needed to prescribe various modalities. Cancer rehabilitation requires an understanding of several unique neurologic and musculoskeletal impairments related to cancer and its treatment. We discuss the role of rehabilitation in palliative care patients and barriers to referral across disease stages. We also discuss research and further work to standardize the efficiency and efficacy of various cancer rehabilitation treatments. Older adults with multiple comorbidities and fragility can result in greater functional decline, requiring special attention to developing patient- and family-centered rehabilitation plans for this population.


Cancer-related fatigue Prehabilitation Palliative rehabilitation Cancer pain syndromes Fragility Precautions Pathologic fractures 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Wittry
    • 1
  • Diana Molinares
    • 2
  • Susan Maltser
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Palliative Medicine and Rehabilitation MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Medicine & RehabilitationUniversity of Miami-Jackson Memorial HospitalMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationZucker School of Medicine at Hofstra NorthwellManhassetUSA

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