Oncology Examination

Original Editor - Elaine Lonnemann

Top Contributors - Elaine Lonnemann, Kim Jackson, Fasuba Ayobami and Vidya Acharya

Oncology Examination

Using the International Classification Framework Model for Assessment in Oncology Rehabilitation by Gilchrist LS, Galantino ML, Wampler M, et al.[1]  

I Mental Function, Pain & Somatosensory Screening

Mental function can be affected by radiation and chemotherapy through the changes in the central nervous system[2][3][4] Mental impairments can be induced by inflammation, destructive autoimmune responses, toxicity levels and oxidative damage[5].  Emotional Functions may also affect the ability of our patients to respond to and/or participate in physical therapy.

Diagnostic & Screening Measures

1.  Mental Status

              The mini-mental state examination measure

              Profile of Mood States[6]


2.  Pain Assessment

                     1.  Visual Analog Scale

                     2.  Numeric Rating Scale

                     3.  Faces Pain Scale

                     4.  Brief Pain Inventory


3.  Neurological Assessment Measure

a)  Vestibular

May be affected by neoplasms such as a Vestibular schwannoma which may cause unilateral dysfunction or chemotherapy drugs such as Cisplastin. Dizziness Handicap Inventory Questionnaire--25 items assess the impact of disequilibrium on functional activities.[7]

b)  Somatosensory

c)  Neuromusculoskeletal

1.  Peripheral Neuropathies: Chemotherapy induced

          modified Total Neuropathy Score[8]

2.  Anesthesia/Dysesthesias

         with compression or surgical dissection of nerves

3.  Motor Function Loss

         Radiation Plexopathy

II Neuromusculoskeletal Function (Movement Related Functional Assessment)



  • Scar tissue formation after surgical resections, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  
  • Fibrosis after irradiation.


  • Muscle weaknesses from inflammatory intermediates produced by the tumor that are catabolic and cause muscle wasting (cachexia).
  • Surgical denervation or damage
  • Radiation & Chemotherapy can damage muscle or nerve tissue.  (Vinca alkaloids, taxanes and platinum agents)
  • Grip dynamometers
  • MMT


Balance Dysfunction can be caused from any of the following

  • sensory input
  • central processing of balance-related information
  • ROM limitations
  • orthostatic hypotension
  • muscle weakness
  • peripheral neuropathies from taxane

Balance Measures


  • Kinetmatic Analysis
  • Gait Speed Measurements

Gait Measures

  • Tinetti Balance & Gait Scale

III.  System Screening


  • Cardiotoxicity can be a late effect of chemotherapy due damage of the cardiac myoctyes ultimately resulting in congestive heart failure.
  • Radiation may scar the cardiac and coronary arteries resulting in restrictive coronary disease


  1. Echocardiogram to assess ventricular function, cardiac motion and output.



  • Damage to lymph vessels by tumor obstruction, surgical resection of lymph nodes, radiation leading to fibrosis of the lymph vessels


  1. Limb Circumfrence Measurements Pre-op and Post-op
  2. Water Displacement Method of measuring limb volume


       Uses Grades to assess severity of different conditions for example Lymphedema


  • Lung tumors may limit thoracic cavity expansion, compress the airways or reduce the surface area of the lung.  
  • Chemotherapy agents (beomycin, methotrexate and docetaxel may damage pneumocytes.  This reduces alveoli and air exchange.
  • Patients are then at risk for pneumonitis or fibrosis.


  1. Vital signs (RR, HR, BP)
  2. Oxygen Sautration
  3.  Aerobic Test--6 Minute Walk
  4. Dyspnea Scale
  5. Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion

IV.  Red and Yellow Flag Measures & Risk Patterns

Sites at Risk for Neural Compression

Brachial Plexus:  Breast & Lung Tumors

Lumbosacral Plexus:  Colorectal & Gynecological Tumors, Sarcomas & Lymphomas

Symptoms:  Unrelenting pain, worse at night progressing to focal sensory loss or weakness

Cancers that often metastasize to the Spine

  • Prostate
  • Breast
  • Lung 
  • Colon

Cancers that often present in the femur

  • Sarcoma

Cancer and Cancer Treatment increases risk for Osteonecrosis

  • Proximal or Distal Femur
  • Proximal Humerus
  • Jaw
  • Metatarsals

Other Risks

  • Osteoporosis
  • Neutropenia
  • Thrombocytopenia

V.  Functional Activities, Mobility & Self-Care


  • Functional Mobility Assessment

     requires patients to physically perform specific tasks and to answer questions, quantifying their level of function.

  • The Toronto Extremity Salvage Score, lower-extremity version

     is a self administered questionnaire that asks patients to indicate the level of difficulty they experience in dressing,grooming, mobility, work, sports, and leisure

Mobility Assessment

  • changing and maintaining body positions
  • carrying
  • moving and handling objects
  • walking
  • moving around using transportation

Self Care Measures

includes grooming, bathing and dressing

  • Karnofsky Performance Scale

      A standard measure of the ability of adult patients with cancer to perform ordinary tasks. scores range from 0 to 100. A higher score means the patient is better able to carry out daily activities

  • Barthel Index  includes multiple components and diverse self-care activities. May be more responsive in rehabilitation.
      Performance or self-report measure of independence in basic activities of daily living

Shoulder Measures for Breast Cancer[9]

  • The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Breast (FACT-B+4)
  • Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaires.

VI.  Psychosocial

Consider the patients domestic life, interpersonal relations and major life areas.  

assess participation in or attending community activities, reduced job expectations, etc


  • Reintegration to Normal Living Index

     Measures adults' perception of their ability to resume life roles after trauma or illness


  1. Gilchrist LS, Galantino ML, Wampler M, et al. A framework for assessment in oncology rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2009;89:286–306.
  2. Ahles T, Saykin A. Breast cancer chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction. Clin Breast Cancer.2002;3:S84–S90.
  3. Castellon S, Ganz P, Bower J, et al. Neurocognitive performance in breast cancer survivors exposed to adjuvant chemotherapy and tamoxifen. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2004;26:955–969.
  4. Stewart A, Bielajew C, Collins B, et al. A meta analysis of the neuropsychological effects of adjuvant chemotherapy treatment in women treated for breast cancer. Clin Neuropsychol. 2006;20:76–89.
  5. Ahles T, Saykin A, Furstenberg C, et al. Neuropsychologic impact of standard dose systemic chemotherapy in longterm survivors of breast cancer and lymphoma.J Clin Oncol. 2002;20:485–493
  6. Cella D, Tross S, Orov E, et al. Mood states of patients after the diagnosis of cancer. J Psychosoc Oncol. 1989;7:45–53.
  7. Jacobson G, Newman C, Hunter L, Balzer G. Balance function test correlates of the Dizziness Handicap Inventory. J Am Acad Audiol. 1991;2:253–260.
  8. Cavaletti G, Bogliun G, Marzorati L, et al. Grading of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity using the Total Neuropathy Scale. Neurology. 2003;61:fckLR1297–1300.
  9. Davies C, Ryans K, Levenhagen K, Perdomo M. Quality of Life and Functional Outcome Measures for Secondary Lymphedema in Breast Cancer Survivors. Rehabil Oncol Vol 32 (1)p. 7-12