History of Oncological Rehabilitation
In Europe, more than 3 million cancers are diagnosed every year and almost every third person will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Thanks to early detection and rapidly developing treatment methods, survival rates are getting better and better.
More than half of the patients live for at least 5 years after the diagnosis, and this number is steadily increasing, but despite the improving results, this does not necessarily mean freedom from cancer as many people live with their cancer as a “chronic disease” thanks to the evolving treatments.
Although rehabilitation therapy has not traditionally been part of oncology care, attempts in this direction were already made in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, these were still focused on specific symptoms of special patient populations (e.g. treatment of brest tumour lymphoedema). Subsequently, several studies were conducted to assess the rehabilitation needs of cancer patients. In the 1980s, surveys were carried out in both the USA and Europe (the Netherlands), and the results consistently showed that the needs of patients treated for cancer are diverse and require complex care. Both the tumour and the treatment for it can result in complaints that can make everyday life difficult, with pain, psychological and cognitive disturbances being common. Studies also show a correlation between physical damage and mental health. Thus, studies in this area clearly demonstrate the definite need for rehabilitation care which is not only symptom and tumour specific, but also involves a complex and holistic approach.
The development of rehabilitation care for cancer patients and the development of rehabilitation programs are in their infancy, not only in Hungary, but also in the international healthcare system. There are several approaches to this problem, in Germany and Denmark, if necessary, the rehabilitation is carried out within an inpatient care framework after the completion of the treatment, while in the Netherlands and Norway it takes place rather within an outpatient framework.
Oncology rehabilitation is defined as a part of health care that is recommended to be integrated into oncology care by professionals who are able to identify and treat the physical, cognitive and functional impairments of the patients, thereby reducing symptoms, improving patients’ independence and their quality of life.
Prehabilitation care, on the other hand, takes place after the diagnosis of cancer, before the start of the treatment, during which the patient’s physical and psychosocial condition is assessed, and a series of interventions (nutrition and physical improvement, lifestyle changes, etc.) are then implemented in order to ensure that the treatment of the tumour lead to as little damage as possible and be as tolerable as possible.