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April 16, 1982

Cancer Rehabilitation

JAMA. 1982;247(15):2143. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320400055037

When I started practicing medicine 30 years ago, the diagnosis of cancer was generally withheld from patients, the exception being businessmen "who needed to make arrangements." Cancer at that time was virtually a death sentence, and the physician was able only to make patients comfortable. To have spoken about rehabilitation would have been ludicrous.

There have been dramatic changes since, for instance, in acute lymphocytic leukemia in children. Currently, 90% survive two years, and 70% survive five years.1

Thus, we have long-term survivors with psychosocial as well as physical handicaps caused both by the disease and the treatment. In those patients who are not cured there is now longer survival, with disabilities ranging from paraplegia to pathological fractures. Those patients and their families have the opportunity not only to receive assistance in coping with death-threatening situations but also the benefit of modern rehabilitative techniques. There are physical methods that