Functional Outcomes After Cancer Rehabilitation

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Condition: “Functional outcome" is a term used to describe a patient’s ability to perform tasks of daily living. “Cancer rehabilitation” is the process cancer patients go through after cancer treatment to build strength and endurance, reduce pain and stress, and regain independence.

Background: It is essential to measure cancer patient’s functional outcomes, as it offers critical information about their prognosis and ability to tolerate toxic anticancer therapies. Clinicians can perform different tests to measure how well a patient is functioning after cancer treatment and during rehabilitation.

Risk Factors: Assessing functional outcomes does not impose a risk to the patient.  However, clinicians should have a good understanding of the limitations of each test when interpreting the results.

History and Symptoms: Before testing, clinicians should identify possible functional limitations. Helpful information includes the patient’s cancer type, present symptoms (e.g., nausea, weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, pain), and anticancer treatments received (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation, surgery). During testing, clinicians should consider patient’s perceived difficulty while performing tasks, as this may affect the test results. Common cancer related symptoms that can affect test results include fatigue and pain.

Physical Exam: Physical examination may be performed as a component of testing; this will vary depending on the type of test utilized. A complete physical exam can also help define therapy goals.

Diagnostic Process: While functional outcome testing does not include blood tests or imaging tests, it provides valuable information about the patient’s overall health and well-being.

Rehab Management: Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians can improve a person’s function and quality of life after cancer. The use of functional outcome assessments helps identify specific challenges that patients experience. This information can then be used to focus rehabilitation therapies and optimize patient care.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: The American Cancer Society has a wide range of resources to help patients, as well as caregivers and families.