Research on cancer rehabilitation targeting young adult cancer survivors (YACS) is limited, and little is known about the positive health outcomes of rehabilitation programs tailored specifically for this vulnerable group.
The aim of this study was to investigate whether a complex rehabilitation program improved the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and physical capacities of YACS.
A longitudinal prospective study using Norwegian norm-based comparisons was conducted. Twenty YACS (24–35 years old) with different cancer diagnoses participated in a complex rehabilitation program lasting for 6 months, focusing on goal setting, exercise, psychoeducation, individual follow-up, and peer support.
Health-related quality of life was measured by EORTC QOL C-30 and the scores showed significant increases in overall HRQOL (P < .005–.001) and all functional dimensions (P < .001–.05) and a decrease in fatigue (P < .000–.05) and effect sizes between 0.72 and 1.30. Significant changes occurred within physical fitness (P < .005), lung capacity (P < .05), and left-hand strength (P < .001), but not right-hand strength and body mass index, with effect sizes between −0.04 and 0.48. The values of HRQOL were stable after a 1-year follow-up.
A complex cancer rehabilitation program especially tailored for YACS seems to build positive health outcomes such as HRQOL and physical capacity in a long-term perspective. The content and structure of the program were feasible with high compliance. The results underline the importance of targeting rehabilitation interventions to YACS in need after cancer treatment, acknowledging rehabilitation as a process that requires adequate time and follow-up.
Implications for practice:
Healthcare providers should be aware of YACS’ symptom burden and monitor HRQOL and physical parameters to ascertain holistic cancer survivorship care.