Systematic Review of Functional Outcomes in Cancer Rehabilitation

Alix Sleight*, Lynn H. Gerber, Timothy F. Marshall, Alicia Livinski, Catherine M. Alfano, Shana Harrington, Ann Marie Flores, Aneesha Virani, Xiaorong Hu, Sandra A. Mitchell, Mitra Varedi, Melissa Eden, Samah Hayek, Beverly Reigle, Anya Kerkman, Raquel Neves, Kathleen Jablonoski, Eileen Danaher Hacker, Virginia Sun, Robin NewmanKaren Kane McDonnell, Allison L'Hotta, Alana Schoenhals, Nicole L.Stout DPT

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: To systematically review the evidence regarding rehabilitation interventions targeting optimal physical or cognitive function in adults with a history of cancer and describe the breadth of evidence as well as strengths and limitations across a range of functional domains. Data Sources: PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Plus, Scopus, Web of Science, and Embase. The time scope was January 2008 to April 2019. Study Selection: Prospective, controlled trials including single- and multiarm cohorts investigating rehabilitative interventions for cancer survivors at any point in the continuum of care were included, if studies included a primary functional outcome measure. Secondary data analyses and pilot/feasibility studies were excluded. Full-text review identified 362 studies for inclusion. Data Extraction: Extraction was performed by coauthor teams and quality and bias assessed using the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Classification of Evidence Scheme (class I-IV). Data Synthesis: Studies for which the functional primary endpoint achieved significance were categorized into 9 functional areas foundational to cancer rehabilitation: (1) quality of life (109 studies), (2) activities of daily living (61 studies), (3) fatigue (59 studies), (4) functional mobility (55 studies), (5) exercise behavior (37 studies), (6) cognition (20 studies), (7) communication (10 studies), (8) sexual function (6 studies), and (9) return to work (5 studies). Most studies were categorized as class III in quality/bias. Averaging results found within each of the functional domains, 71% of studies reported statistically significant results after cancer rehabilitation intervention(s) for at least 1 functional outcome. Conclusions: These findings provide evidence supporting the efficacy of rehabilitative interventions for individuals with a cancer history. The findings should be balanced with the understanding that many studies had moderate risk of bias and/or limitations in study quality by AAN criteria. These results may provide a foundation for future work to establish clinical practice guidelines for rehabilitative interventions across cancer disease types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1807-1826
Number of pages20
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Functional status
  • Neoplasms
  • Rehabilitation
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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