Oncology Rehabilitation: Minding the Care Gap

Cancer. It is a word that evokes so many emotions, and for some, so many memories. It is the same with me. In my personal life, several people who are near and dear to my heart have journeyed with and battled cancer valiantly. Some are survivors and some are not. In my professional life, I have been privileged to work with numerous brave clients who have also walked that path. Cancer sucks. It is hard. But, it has also given me some of the sweetest, most intimate moments in my life and has sharpened my understanding of what it means to live.


There are more than 100 types of cancer that can disrupt various organs and systems in the body. As a result of the cancer or associated treatments, people living with and surviving cancer often experience altered physical and cognitive functioning that impacts daily activities. Cancer affects living.

Studies have shown that those who receive rehabilitation services before, during, and after their cancer care have improved outcomes in pain, fatigue, swelling, and strength measures, reduced fall risk, improved sleep and mental health, and increased function in everyday life. In short, physical, occupational, speech and/or massage therapy can improve quality of life and allow individuals to pursue activities that are meaningful and bring joy.

I have seen the difference that therapy can make first hand. I saw it when my mother-in-law and father-in-law walked side-by-side through the woods around their home after her long hospital stay. When my 18-year-old client walked across the stage using her forearm crutches to receive her high school diploma. And I saw it when a dear friend told his young son and daughter that he loved them using his communication board. Therapy makes a difference. Quality of life matters.

How Therapy Can Help

However, there is a care gap, an under-utilization of therapy services . A gap between therapy services that would be beneficial and the level of therapy services that are often provided.

“Multiple studies reveal under-referral of cancer patients who could potentially benefit from rehabilitation interventions. Some under-utilization could relate to lack of awareness of benefits of rehabilitation services for oncology patients. Specialty providers may overly concentrate on the disease without considering patient quality of life and functional challenges.”

— From The State of Cancer Rehabilitation in the United States

Enablr Therapy is working to mind that gap. If you or a loved one’s life has been impacted from the effects of cancer or cancer treatment, Enablr Therapy is here for you.

Written by Rachel Morris, OTR/L

Rachel is the Director of Therapy for Enablr Therapy and a licensed occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience.

Kerkman, A.C., & Christensen, D.L. (2018). Cancer Rehabilitation in an Outpatient Physical Therapy Setting: Establishing A Clinical Pathway and Measuring Fatigue, Pain, Distress, and Functional Mobility.  Rehabilitation Oncology, 36(1), E13-E-14. 
Pergolotti, M., Covington, K. R., Lightner, A. N., Bertram, J., Thess, M., Speaker, M., Williams, G. R., & Manning, P. (2021). Association of Outpatient Cancer Rehabilitation With Patient-Reported Outcomes and Performance-Based Measures of Function. Rehabilitation Oncology, 39(3), 137-142.
Silver, J. K., Stout, N. L., Fu, J. B., Pratt-Chapman, M., Haylock, P. J., & Sharma, R. (2018). The State of Cancer Rehabilitation in the United States. Journal of cancer rehabilitation, 1, 1–8, Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6415687/
Stout, N. L., Santa Mina, D., Lyons, K. D., Robb, K., & Silver, J. K. (2020). A Systematic Review of Rehabilitation and Exercise Recommendations in Oncology Guidelines. American Cancer Society Journals. Retrieved from https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21639

Contact us to learn more or browse our roster of therapists to book directly!

About Enablr Therapy
Enablr Therapy offers speech, occupational, and physical therapy to people of all ages and abilities through our school-based therapy services as well as cash-based services for individual clients. Individual clients can be seen through convenient online sessions in many states across the country.