1. Rinehart-Ayres, Margaret E. PT, PhD, Issue Editor

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For over 20 years, concerns surrounding the diagnosis, treatment, and support of individuals and their loved ones who are touched by cancer has been near and dear to my heart. I was thrust into the cancer world when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my twenties. During that time I realized that there were few organized support systems for someone of my age, much less the older population. More importantly, as a physical therapist, I found that healthcare professionals did not understand that individuals with a diagnosis of cancer could benefit from rehabilitation, no matter how young or old they were. The public and many healthcare professionals believed that a diagnosis of cancer meant death and, therefore, there was no need to "waste time" helping to improve the function of someone with this diagnosis.


Times are changing. While there are more support groups for people with cancer, and more and better medical/surgical treatments for those diagnosed with cancer, there are still limited resources directed toward rehabilitation of those who are going through treatment, those who are surviving with long-term side effects from cancer treatment, and those who want to maintain a high quality of life as they die.


No group has been more ignored than the older population, who are the most affected by cancer, with 60% of all cancers occurring in those who are 65 and older. 1 With the "graying of America" this is an issue that should be of concern to all of us, because we are all aging.


I was very excited to be asked to be the guest editor of this issue of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation because it puts the spotlight on cancer and the special needs of this population. This issue is organized in such a way that it provides clinicians with an overview of the disease burden and an understanding of the special needs of this population in relation to exercise, lymphedema, psychosocial issues, and end of life/hospice.


I hope that the readers develop a better understanding of the impact of cancer on the older population and appreciate the value of providing a comprehensive approach to treatment that includes rehabilitation for those who are coping with cancer.




1. Ries LAG, Kosary CL, Hankey BF, et al, eds. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1973-1995. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute; 1998. [Context Link]