Under Review — this page was due to be reviewed by Wednesday, 12 October 2022. The information shown here may be outdated.

Rehabilitation is an essential component of cancer care that aims to enable people with cancer to make the most of their lives by maximising the outcomes of their treatment and minimising the consequences of treatment and symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and lymphoedema. It starts at the point of diagnosis by helping people prepare for treatment (pre-habilitation) and continues throughout the pathway.

For someone living with cancer, rehabilitation is a set of interventions that maintains or improves how they function in everyday life and respond to treatment. These interventions are tailored to their needs and are focused on what matters to them. They support individuals to be as independent as possible with daily living tasks, participate in education/work and recreation activities, and meaningful life roles such as taking care of family. It may take the form of:

Advice and support to improve fitness before a surgery for example providing physical activity sessions

Advice and support to help restore function during and after treatment, for example exercises focusing on the airway to help maintain swallow function after treatment for a head and neck cancer, or to help restore voice after a laryngectomy

Provision of assistive devices (such as mobility aids, bathing equipment) or home adaptations to facilitate independence with activities of daily living such as washing /dressing, meal preparation, shopping tasks

Nutrition advice to help with weight management or improve tolerance to treatment. Rehabilitation can take the form of 1-1 appointments in the hospital or at home, group exercises, provision of resources such as videos and booklets, or support during a stay at a step-down facility. Allied Health Professionals and other healthcare professionals are involved in rehabilitation for people with cancer but four of the main professions delivering it are dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech and language therapists.


Reducing impact of expected disabilities and improving coping strategies


Returning an individual to previous levels of function


Aimed at limiting functional loss and providing support in the presence of persistent disease and need for treatment


Prevents further loss of function, eliminates or reduces complications and to provide symptom management

Review date: Wednesday, 12 October 2022