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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Access to oncology physical rehabilitation services in British Columbia Sayyari, Sarah


Background: Cancer survivors report unique health complications associated with their treatment. Common symptoms include pain, compromised physical functioning, and lymphedema. Although these complications are highly responsive to physical therapy, many cancer survivors do not receive adequate physical therapy care. Furthermore, the delivery of physical therapy services for cancer survivors in British Columbia (BC) has not yet been investigated, warranting an inquiry specific to BC. Purpose: To develop an accurate description of the physical therapy services and programs currently accessible to oncology patients within BC’s public health care system. Methods: A standardized survey was used to investigate the provision of physical therapy to cancer survivors across BC. Public health care sites offering physical therapy services were identified through a comprehensive list of BC hospitals and out-patient health centres. Public practice health care professionals responsible for overseeing physical therapy at each site were requested to complete a survey regarding the physical therapy care provided to cancer survivors at their respective location. Results: Of the 98 sites contacted, surveys were collected for 92 for an overall response rate of 94%. Seventy-one (77%) of sites offered physical therapy to oncology patients, and two (2%) reported having an oncology-specific rehabilitation program, both of which were exclusive to breast cancer survivors and located in the lower mainland (Vancouver and Surrey). Thirty-one (44% of) participants agreed that the services currently being offered at their site were meeting the needs of their patients, 15 (21%) did not consider current services to be adequately meeting the needs of their oncology population, and 25 (35%) were unsure. The most common reasons for not meeting patient needs was lack of funding (83%), lack of professionals experienced in oncology rehabilitation (73%), and lack of resources (e.g., equipment) (70%). Conclusion: In BC, only two public health care sites deliver oncology-specific rehabilitation programs. The remaining sites offer services to oncology patients based on need. A minority of sites report meeting patient rehabilitation needs, with primary barriers being lack of funding, resources, and specialized health care professionals.

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