The burden of disease and treatment effects from gynaecological cancer can cause significant distress in women as they begin to live longer with a chronic disease. Even where there are good outcomes in terms of cure, women have significant rehabilitation requirements. Those women entering the cancer survivor phase following treatment are likely to experience functional loss due to the physical and psychological effects of the disease, the treatment, and their personal processing of their cancer experience.
The aim of rehabilitation is to assist a woman to achieve the best possible level of function, to promote independence, and to adapt themselves to a “new normal”. In their 2013 qualitative study interviewing women with gynaecological and upper gastrointestinal tract cancers, etc. found that finding a new normal was an important aspect of their rehabilitation. This new state was attained through a process of adjustment to the changes in themselves and their relationships with others and the establishing new expectations about their life as a cancer survivor. Within the field of gynaecological cancer it is now recognized that measuring the success of treatment by focusing on tumor response and survival is not sufficient and that patient‐reported outcomes that describe quality of life are clinically meaningful.
Rehabilitation following treatment for gynaecological cancer helps women adjust to their changed condition by effectively preventing or mitigating the symptoms related to their cancer and its treatment. Strategies that ensure sensitive enquiry within clinical practice into the physical, psychosocial, and functional symptoms that women with gynaecological cancer find most distressing are an important first step in facilitating recovery. Preparing the patient with timely, consistent, and tailored information addresses their anxiety about the unknown and can support them to take control of their lives again. The development of multidimensional rehabilitation interventions that are flexible both in how and when they are undertaken and that treat the patient as a whole by integrating the physical, psychosocial, and behavioural aspects of the symptom experience is the future for gynaecological cancer rehabilitation.