Background: There are about 20 million cancer patients in Europe, and the number is increasing. Cancer patients’ rehabilitation has been recognised as a part of integrated care to restore the patients’ physical and psychosocial status and quality of life as far as possible.
Methods: European Cancer Health Indicator Project EUROCHIP-3 collected data on cancer rehabilitation programmes across the European Union with the aim to map the present situation in the European Union and to provide equal opportunities for all citizens in the future. From 2009-2011, a two-step survey was performed, and altogether 35 experts from 27 countries were consulted.
Results: All 27 countries completed the survey. Most respondents provided a definition of rehabilitation similar to the WHO definition of rehabilitation, including physical, psychological and social domains in the definition. Cancer rehabilitation was reported to be included in the national cancer plans in 18 countries. Guidelines for cancer patient rehabilitation exist in five countries. Training courses for professionals involved in rehabilitation are available in 15 countries, and counselling for cancer patients and their family members in 24 states. Rehabilitation services are offered in specialised rehabilitation centres for cancer patients, in comprehensive cancer care centres, in general rehabilitation centres, in general, private and university clinics, in health centres, hospices, and resorts.
Conclusions: In many European countries, cancer patients’ rehabilitation services are fragmented with vast differences in availability and competence between countries. Cancer patients’ rehabilitation should be on the political and financial agenda in all European countries to ensure that each cancer patient receives the care needed, and it should be included in national cancer plans. The development and implementation of uniform rehabilitation guidelines and quality assurance guidelines may help to increase the quality of rehabilitation.