Exercise-Based Oncology Rehabilitation: Leveraging the
Cardiac Rehabilitation Model
Kim L. Dittus, MD, PhD1, Susan G. Lakoski, MD, MS1, Patrick D. Savage, MS2, Nathan
Kokinda, MS3, Michael Toth, PhD4, Diane Stevens, PT, BS2, Kimberly Woods, PT, MEd2,
Patricia O’Brien, MD5, and Philip A. Ades, MD1
1Department of Internal Medicine, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health, University of
Vermont, Bulington, VT
2Fletcher Allen Health Care, Bulington, VT
3Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science, University of Vermont, Bulington, VT
4Departments of Internal Medicine and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, University of
Vermont, Bulington, VT
5Department of Internal Medicine, University of Vermont, Bulington, VT
PURPOSE—The value of exercise and rehabilitative interventions for cancer survivors is
increasingly clear and oncology rehabilitation programs could provide these important
interventions. However, a pathway to create oncology rehabilitation has not been delineated.
Community-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs staffed by health care professionals with
experience in providing rehabilitation and secondary prevention services to individuals with
coronary heart disease are widely available and provide a potential model and location for
oncology rehabilitation programs. Our purpose is to outline the rehabilitative needs of cancer
survivors and demonstrate how oncology rehabilitation can be created using a cardiac
METHODS—We identify the impairments associated with cancer and its therapy that respond to
rehabilitative interventions. Components of the CR model that would benefit cancer survivors are
described. An example of an oncology rehabilitation program using a CR model is presented.
RESULTS—Cancer survivors have impairments associated with cancer and its therapy that
improve with rehabilitation. Our experience demonstrates that effective rehabilitation services can
be provided utilizing an existing CR infrastructure. Few adjustments to current cardiac
rehabilitation models would be needed to provide oncology rehabilitation. Preliminary evidence
suggests that cancer survivors participating in an oncology rehabilitation program experience
improvements in psychological and physiologic parameters.
Correspondence: Kim Dittus, MD, PhD, University of Vermont, Given E-214, 89 Beaumont Ave., Burlington, VT 05405.
Conflict of Interest: None declared.
All authors have read and approved the manuscript.
NIH Public Access
J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 March 01.
Published in final edited form as:
J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2015 ; 35(2): 130–139. doi:10.1097/HCR.0000000000000091.
NIH-PA Author Manuscript NIH-PA Author Manuscript NIH-PA Author Manuscript