What is rehabilitation?

Cancer Rehabilitation is defined as medical care that diagnoses and treats patient’s physical, psychological and cognitive impairment to maintain or restore function, reduce symptoms burden, maximize independence and improve quality of life.

Cancer rehabilitation incorporates both a comprehensive and interdisciplinary team approach lead by a rehabilitation physician that addresses this complex clinical care.

For Cancer Patients

After cancer treatment, patients may notice a difference in their physical, social, psychological, and work-related abilities. Rehabilitation often helps patients regain strength, physical function and independence that they may have lost due to cancer or its during treatment.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help patient remain as independent and productive as possible.

Rehabilitation can improve the quality of life for people with cancer by reaching the following goals:

  • Improving physical strength to help offset limitations caused by cancer and cancer treatment
  • Increasing a person’s ability to care for himself or herself and reducing support needed from caregivers
  • Managing post cancer treatment symptoms: fatigue, sleep problems, and pain.
  • Reduce hospitalization

For cancer patients, rehabilitation is not limited to post-treatment. There is a growing interest in also using prehab in cancer care to prepare for treatment and minimize some of its potential long-term physical impairments, such as heart and balance problems. “Prehab could be a relatively cheap way to get people ready for cancer treatment and surgery, both of them stressors,” says study co-author Francesco Carli, a professor of anaesthesiology at McGill University in Montreal.

Some early research suggests prehab may improve people’s ability to tolerate cancer treatment and return to normal physical functioning more quickly.

Rehab Process

Before any cancer treatment commences, the patient will start prehab for about 10 - 15minutes prior to the Oncology treatment. The main component of cancer prehab is often a structured exercise programme to improve patient’s endurance, strength or cardiorespiratory health.

The clinician establishes baseline measurements, such as determining how far a patient can walk on a treadmill within six minutes, and may set a goal for improvement. Patients may also receive psychological and nutritional counselling or other services during the period of treatment.

After the oncology treatment, patient will be discharged home with exercise prescription. However, for those who have sustained injuries or wish to have supervision / peer support during physical workout, outpatient follow up will be recommended. The Rehab Physician will evaluate patient as much as needed to support the patients for the entire journey of rehab, dealing with pain, physical limitation, etc.

At Sunway Medical Centre, a team of health care professionals work closely to provide comprehensive cancer rehabilitation. The team members help patients adapt to his or her situation, whether the changes are temporary or permanent.

These professionals may include any of the following:

Signs that you may need rehabilitation services


What they Do?



This doctor treats cancer.

· Experiencing pain that is not caused by cancer.

· Feeling more tired than before you were diagnosed.

Rehabilitation Physician

This doctor is a medical specialist that specializes in prevention and treatment of physical, psychological and cognitive impairment related to cancer and its treatment with a focus on improvement of symptoms, independence and quality of life of the cancer survivor.

Patient and family education and counselling

· Feeling weaker now than when initially diagnosed. · Having muscular or orthopaedic problems. · Uncertain about how much to exercise or how to best exercise.


This health care professional helps patients improve their physical strength and ability to move. This is especially important for people who notice physical changes after cancer treatment that affect how they move. People experiencing these challenges can benefit from physical therapy.

· Lymphedema Management with compression garments, specialized massage and bandaging methods, and exercises. · Pain Management · Exercise programs: §To build strength, and improve balance and promote mobility.

· Having difficulty recovering from treatment and doing every day activities. · Struggling with memory problems or difficulty concentrating.

Occupational therapist

This professional helps patients perform the activities important to them with methods and tools to increase function, comfort, and safety. Occupational therapists design a tailored therapy plan based on the layout of a person’s home, school, or work place

· Help with activities of daily living, such as eating, drinking, dressing, bathing, using the toilet, cooking, and basic chores · Home/ Work site visits and assessment · Assistive device prescription or modification · Energy reservation training – Fatigue management: to help reduce the effort needed to do certain tasks. · Carer training


This food and nutrition professional helps people with cancer understand their special needs. A dietitian can recommend suitable diets or meal plans. Dietitians may also monitor the body weight and dietary needs of a person with cancer.

· Clinical Psychologist

These and other mental health professionals address the emotional, psychological, and behavioural needs of the person with cancer and those of his or her family. Such needs may be longstanding or may have resulted from the challenges of cancer and its treatment. These mental health professionals can help patients cope with their experience and the changes in their lives.

· Having difficulty talking or swallowing

Speech-language pathologist (SLP)

This professional specializes in communication and swallowing disorders. An SLP helps patients regain their speaking, swallowing, and oral motor skills after cancer treatment that affects the head, mouth, and neck.