No hospital sends a stroke patient home without a detailed plan to help them regain as much of their normal functioning as possible. Yet cancer patients are routinely released with no guidance on how to deal with the impairments that may linger after their treatment is done. “A lot of cancer survivors feel ditched after treatment,” says Catherine Alfano, deputy director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute.
Research shows that cancer rehabilitation can help people reduce disability and improve their functioning, yet too few cancer survivors get such care, says Julie Silver, a physician and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She encountered the problem herself after undergoing rigorous treatment for breast cancer in 2003. Afterward, she felt abandoned.
Recognizing an unmet need, Silver launched the Survivorship, Training and Rehab program. STAR helps hospitals and other health-care facilities develop cancer rehabilitation programs that coordinate care among diverse providers. The programs are tailored to each person and their cancer, whether it’s breast, lung, prostate or something else.