>Why Cancer Rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation interventions have been proven to be both safe and effective in addressing many of the impairments and resulting disabilities cancer survivors experience. Exercise, a key component of rehabilitation, can help to restore function, and minimize side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as cancer related fatigue. Research is demonstrating that exercise may also play a significant role in preventing the recurrence of certain types of cancer (eg breast, colorectal).

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates 216,200 new diagnoses of cancer in 2018 (Canadian Cancer Society, 2018). The rise in cancer diagnoses is expected to be 80% between 2005 and 2030. (Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, 2018). This is related to the increase number of seniors in the overall population. One in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.

More and more Canadians are living with cancer. Survival from cancer has improved over time due to a number of factors, including better screening, earlier detection, and more effective treatments. Depending on the type of cancer a person has, cancer is no longer considered to be a life shortening disease, but a chronic condition. The average five year survival rate for all cancers combined is 62%. Some types of cancer have poorer survival rates (lung, pancreas), while others, such as breast cancer have an 88% five year survival rate.

While more people are surviving cancer, this survival often comes with short and long term physical impairments and disability. Cancer survivors are more likely to experience disability than those who have not had cancer. (Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, 2010). In their 2018 report "Living with Cancer", a report on the patient experience, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer states "People continue to experience physical, emotional, and practical challenges one to three years after completing cancer treatment." Eight in ten respondents reported having physical challenges after their treatment ended with fatigue being the most difficult to get help for.

In 2008, the Canadian Community Health Survey reported that 35% of people living with cancer often had restrictions in their activities. This compares with 13.5% of people who never had cancer and reported often experiencing restrictions in activities. 30% of people living with cancer sometimes had restricted activities, compared with 17 % of those who did not have cancer.

Large numbers of cancer survivors experience physical impairments and disability. The evidence is growing that exercise decreases the risk of several types of cancer recurrence. However, few cancer survivors currently have access to resources to help them address these issues. One of the barriers to cancer survivors accessing rehabilitation services is the lack of education/training of rehabilitation providers to work with this population.