Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 1449–1453 | Cite as

“I didn’t actually know there was such a thing as rehab”: survivor, family, and clinician perceptions of rehabilitation following treatment for head and neck cancer

  • Sara McEwenEmail author
  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
  • Rosemary Martino
  • Ian Poon
  • Colleen Dunphy
  • Jorge Norman Rios
  • Jolie Ringash



The purpose of this study was to obtain first-hand contributions from survivors, family members, and front-line health care professionals regarding the rehabilitation needs for head and neck cancer (HNC) patients, to inform development of a rehabilitation intervention.


The researchers conducted a series of focus groups with the three key stakeholder groups.


A total of seven focus groups with 40 participants were conducted, two with survivors, one with family members, and four with health care professionals. All three participant groups reported that motivation based on a strong desire to return to meaningful roles and activities, and rehabilitation resources embedded within the cancer system were important facilitators of functional recovery. Lack of access to rehabilitation services was a concern expressed repeatedly.


While generalization is limited by the small sample size, findings include a comprehensive list of rehabilitation needs following treatment for HNC, factors that facilitate and hinder recovery of functional health, and specific suggestions for the development of rehabilitation consult intervention for survivors of HNC.


Head and neck cancer Rehabilitation Qualitative 



The authors would like to thank Tammy Craig for her assistance with note taking and time keeping during focus groups.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors have full control over the primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


The funding was provided by the Grant Miller Cancer Grant, University of Toronto Faculty Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara McEwen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    • 3
  • Rosemary Martino
    • 2
    • 4
  • Ian Poon
    • 2
    • 5
  • Colleen Dunphy
    • 2
    • 4
  • Jorge Norman Rios
    • 1
  • Jolie Ringash
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Sunnybrook Research InstituteSt. John’s Rehab Research ProgramTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  4. 4.University Health NetworkTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Odette Cancer CentreSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada

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