Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship

What is Cancer Rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation can help you with many of the issues you experience during or after cancer. These issues may be:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Cognitive
  • Social
Cancer rehabilitation aims to:

  • Reduce the side effects of cancer and its treatment, e.g. pain, weakness, low mood.
  • Help you be more active and participate in all your daily activities
  • Help you be as independent as possible
  • Improve your overall quality of life.

You can take part in rehabilitation at any stage of your cancer care. Specialist healthcare professionals will work with you to meet your individual rehabilitation goals.

What is Cancer Survivorship?

A cancer survivor is described as someone living with and beyond cancer. At present, there are almost 200,000 people living with and beyond cancer in Ireland, and this number is growing each year.

The term ‘survivor’ can mean different things to each person, and is not always considered a good fit for every person with a cancer diagnosis. Alternative terms frequently used are ‘living with and beyond cancer’ or ‘person with cancer.’

‘Cancer survivorship’ begins from the time of diagnosis until the end of life. Cancer survivorship care involves identifying the diverse needs people with and beyond cancer, managing these needs, and supporting people to achieve optimum health and wellbeing.

Members of the Cancer Rehabilitation Team


Physiotherapists work with you to optimise your physical function and improve quality of life at any stage of cancer care. The role of physiotherapy in cancer rehabilitation is broad, and includes helping you to:

  • Prepare physically before treatment (‘prehabilitation’)
  • Get moving after surgery or during any in-patient stay
  • Improve fitness, strength and function during and after treatment
  • Address specific movement or musculoskeletal problems
  • Prevent and manage lymphoedema
  • Address problems with breathing or coughing
  • Improve pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists (OTs) help you to maximise your abilities, your independence and your quality of life while experiencing issues related to cancer and its treatment.

OTs can help you with managing daily activities, like dressing and bathing. They will also support you with longer-term goals such as returning to work or school.

The specialist role of OTs in cancer rehabilitation also includes:

  • providing assistive equipment and technologies
  • seating and pressure care
  • assessing and supporting cognitive needs


Psycho-oncology is a specialty in cancer care which aims to support the psychological, emotional and mental health care of people affected by cancer, their carers and families.

Psycho-oncology is a multi-disciplinary specialty, meaning it can involve multiple professions, most notably: psychologists, nurses, counsellors and doctors. This speciality has a valuable role to play at all times throughout cancer care.

Registered Dietician

Registered Dieticians can support you with symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Sore or dry mouth
  • Issues with swallowing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • GI symptoms e.g. constipation, diarrhoea
  • Fatigue

Speech & Language Therapist

Speech and Language Therapists working in cancer care specialise in assessing and managing speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties. They play a very important role in the rehabilitation of people with head and neck cancer, both before and after treatment.

Lymphoedema Therapist

Lymphoedema therapists are specialists in assessing and managing lymphoedema. They provide expert assessments and deliver a range of treatments designed to reduce swelling and improve function of the body part with lymphoedema.

Social Worker

Social workers operate within the cancer team to support, aid and empower people with cancer and their families. They can support you with the complex social, practical and emotional difficulties encountered in cancer care.

The services provided by social workers in cancer care include:

  • Planning your safe discharge from hospital
  • Connecting you with statutory and voluntary community services
  • Practical support, information and referral regarding social welfare entitlements and benefits
  • Patient and family education around coping with illness
  • Individual counselling, group work, work with families and carers