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Next-generation cancer rehabilitation: A giant step forward for patient care

Research published in Rehabilitation Nursing Journal makes the case for incorporating cancer rehabilitation as part of cancer survivorship care 

The number of cancer patients and survivors is rising worldwide. An American Cancer Society 2019–2021 report on cancer treatment and survivorship estimates that the U.S. population of cancer survivors will increase to more than 22.1 million by 2030 due to the growth and age of the population alone.

Last month Catherine Alfano, PhD, vice president of cancer care management and research at Northwell Health Cancer Institute and published Rehabilitation Nursing Journal (RNJ) author, wrote an op-ed in Newsday titled "Doing right by cancer patients." In the piece, Dr. Alfano discusses the growing need for the medical community to focus energy and resources on caring for cancer patients and survivors. "It's time to take a broader view of cancer care. Treatment is not just about vanquishing the disease; it's also about keeping people healthy and feeling as good as possible for the rest of their lives," writes Dr. Alfano.

RNJ research finds comprehensive cancer rehabilitation improves patient function and quality of life  

Dr. Alfano also wrote a peer-reviewed and highly cited RNJ article on the topic of cancer rehabilitation and survivorship in July 2018 with co-author Mackenzi Pergolotti, PhD. Titled "Next-Generation Cancer Rehabilitation: A Giant Step Forward for Patient Care," the article emphasizes the role an interdisciplinary cancer rehabilitation team can play in meeting the growing demand for enduring cancer survivor care.

"Comprehensive cancer rehabilitation has the potential to treat many [cancer] treatment-related impairments, improving physical functioning, social well-being, and quality of life and the ability to function in the workplace," writes Drs. Alfano and Pergolotti. They go on to explain that while the benefits of cancer rehabilitation are well-documented, very few patients receive these services.

National efforts must focus on four critical areas to achieve next-generation cancer rehabilitation  

In addition to providing key practice points that healthcare providers can use to improve patient care, Drs. Alfano and Pergolotti's RNJ article outlines the following four areas that are critical to achieving next-generation cancer rehabilitation:

  1. Innovating cancer rehabilitation care delivery
  2. Expanding the team of providers
  3. Creating precision medicine cancer rehabilitation to better predict and tailor the optimal therapies for given patients
  4. Demonstrating the value of cancer rehabilitation to drive referrals and reimbursement

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