Science News: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs of Oncology Trainees on Function and Cancer Rehabilitation Medicine

Published December 06, 2023

Science News

Submitted by: Oksana Sayko, MD
Edited by: Nandita Keole, MD

Citation: Molinares D, Parke S, Yadav R, Liu D, Williams J, Bruera E. Knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of oncology trainees on function and cancer rehabilitation medicine. PM R. 2023;15(8):982-989. doi:10.1002/pmrj.12881

Summary:  Enhancing functionality is linked to decreased morbidity and mortality among individuals living with cancer. Cancer rehabilitation medicine (CRM) emphasizes elevating functionality in this patient population. However, a notable impediment to patients availing themselves of CRM services lies in the insufficient number of referrals originating from oncology providers. Addressing this challenge necessitates an exploration of the perspectives held by oncology trainees. Unraveling their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs concerning the significance of function and the role played by CRM is imperative. This understanding is pivotal in mitigating educational gaps and improving patients' access to rehabilitation services.

This study, conducted at a comprehensive cancer center in the US, involved sending a survey to 197 postgraduate oncology trainees who spent at least 1 day a week providing patient care. The response rate was 67% (n = 132).  Of the 132 responses, 126 were included in the results. All respondents expressed the significance of addressing function in the care of cancer patients. The vast majority (94%) acknowledged the positive impact of enhanced function on treatment tolerance, while 84% believed it contributes to improved survival rates. Notably, 80% considered the presence of CRM physicians crucial, and 88% emphasized the importance of having an inpatient rehabilitation unit within the oncological setting.

Despite this acknowledgment, a striking pattern emerged concerning referrals - the majority (more than 75%) admitted to referring fewer than a quarter of their patients to such services. This trend persisted even when respondents acknowledged the pivotal role of both CRM physicians and inpatient rehabilitation units in cancer care. Interestingly, participants with previous exposure to PM&R were markedly more inclined to consult PM&R services compared to their counterparts without PM&R exposure (p = .005). This suggests a potential correlation between familiarity with PM&R and increased likelihood of patient referrals to CRM services.

Furthermore, a notable 81% of oncology trainees expressed the belief that education in CRM should be an integral part of their oncology training. This underscores a recognized need for enhanced education in CRM within the oncology community.

Comments: Reaching functional independence is an important aspect of cancer patients’ recovery. Rehabilitation education should be included in oncology training programs.