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Living with cancer, cancer treatment and recovering from the disease are heavy experiences in very many respects. This is why cancer patients need to undergo rehabilitation. The need for rehabilitation varies greatly with different types of cancer and among different patient groups.

The aim of rehabilitation for cancer patients is to ensure that during the time they have cancer and afterwards they have a full life physically, psychologically and socially. Many different actors are responsible for organising rehabilitation. The courses arranged by the Cancer Society of Finland for cancer patients and their loved ones supplement public service.

Rehabilitation courses

A rehabilitation plan should be made for all cancer patients. This goes through patients’ personal and rehabilitation requirements, and the objectives and forms of rehabilitation.

Medical rehabilitation

There are many options for cancer patients’ medical rehabilitation. Patients may need several different forms of rehabilitation, depending on their illness and treatment. The hospitals providing treatment refer patients for the medical rehabilitation if needed.

Medical rehabilitation requires a doctor’s referral. If you are receiving physiotherapy at a private clinic, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) will reimburse you a part of your expenses. The price of your hospital’s own rehabilitation sessions is determined by set hospital fees.

Medical rehabilitation options

Neuropsychological rehabilitation is needed when you have a brain function disorder due to a brain tumour.  Rehabilitation focuses on speech and perception comprehension, and support for speaking, attention and memory.

Speech therapy is for dealing with speech and voice disorders resulting from cancer. Speech and voice production problems can arise from a brain tumour, laryngeal cancer and oral cancer.

Physiotherapy includes exercise therapy, massage and various physical therapies.

Occupational therapy helps you cope with everyday life and with important things in your daily activities.

Lymphatic drainage

Lymphatic drainage can be used to treat swelling in the arms, armpit and chest. (lymphoedema). Such swelling and soreness are common symptoms following breast cancer surgery and radiotherapy.  Swelling in the arms can easily turn to infection.

Lymphatic drainage is a therapy to revitalise the pumping mechanism of the lymph system. It helps strengthen the generation of new lymph vessels between the swollen area and the healthy part of the body.

A swollen hand can be rehabilitated with physiotherapy in addition to lymph drainage, as well as with exercises and if necessary using a sling or some other assistive means.

Lymphatic drainage is a form of medical rehabilitation.

Assistive devices

You may need to use assistive devices during and following treatment. The use of assistive devices is a type of medical rehabilitation. To obtain an assistive device, you will need a written statement from a doctor or other health care professional. Physiotherapists often provide guidance on using assistive devices.

The assistive devices that cancer patients most commonly need are wigs and breast shapes (prostheses). The hospital treating you will provide a payment order for procuring an assistive device. Practices may vary in different hospital districts.

Regional cancer associations, hospitals and businesses operating in this sector provide advice on the use of breast forms and choosing the right sort. Instructions are also given for using prosthetic arms and prosthetic legs.


When you have cancer you may find that you lose your hair as a result of treatment. When that happens, you may want to use a wig. You can select a wig according to how you want to use it and your needs. You can find out more about this from your regional cancer association or from the health care staff treating you.

Psychological support

Being seriously ill or facing a recurrence of illness can lead to a psychological crisis. The usual psychological symptoms people with cancer experience are anxiety and depression. Many patients get through such difficult periods with the support of their loved ones and the medical staff treating them.

If psychological problems persist for a long time, are severe or restrict your life, you should discuss the matter with the medical staff treating you.

Psychological support is provided by:

  • The hospital where you receive treatment in conjunction with its psychological support unit or psychiatric outpatients clinic
  • Your health centre or municipal mental health care services
  • Occupational health care
  • Municipal crisis and support services, such as a helpline
  • The Cancer Society of Finland’s national advice service
  • Crisis and support services provided by other organisations, such as the Finnish Association for Mental Health

Spiritual support

Being ill can awaken a need to reflect on and discuss spiritual matters. In addition to talking to your loved ones you can seek support from your Church. If you are in hospital, you can also discuss with the hospital pastor.

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church’s phone and online service(opens in a new window) also provides a means to discuss things that weigh on your mind in Finnish and Swedish.

Other religious communities also provide spiritual support.

Vocational rehabilitation for cancer patients

Cancer patients of working age have a chance to receive vocational rehabilitation. To receive this rehabilitation, you need to have a written statement and referral from a doctor. The aim of vocational rehabilitation is to maintain and promote your working and functional capacity.

Occupational pension institutions(opens in a new window) arrange the majority of vocational rehabilitation. Other sources of vocational rehabilitation include the Social Insurance Institution (Kela)(opens in a new window) and accident and traffic insurance companies.

Discretionary rehabilitation

The Social Insurance Institution (Kela) provides discretionary orientation courses as rehabilitation for people with cancer and their loved ones. The courses are held at rehabilitation centres around the country.

Kela’s discretionary rehabilitation supplements vocational and medical rehabilitation.

Kela’s orientation courses provide information on

  • illness
  • treatment
  • rehabilitation possibilities
  • other forms of support.

The courses also show how you can make a difference to strengthen your own resources, manage your life situation and be actively involved.

You can use the Kela website to find out more about Kela’s orientation courses, and available course places and how to apply.

The courses are easy to find on the Kela website(opens in a new window) using the course number. Though the website may state that a course is full, you should check for cancellations from the course organisers or Kela.

The regional cancer associations can also assist with applying to join Kela’s courses. Kela’s courses are also listed on the Cancer Society’s course list.

Rehabilitation courses(opens in a new window)



Joensuu, Heikki; Jyrkkiö, Sirkku; Kellokumpu-Lehtinen, Pirkko-Liisa; Kouri, Mauri; Roberts, Peter J. & Teppo, Lyly (toim.) (2013) Syöpätaudit. Helsinki: Kustannus Oy Duodecim.

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