Madam Rajwant Kaur was an avid sportswoman and marathon runner, but lymphoma changed all that after surgery to remove the tumour from her spine meant she needed a wheelchair.

But from being able to walk only short distances with a walker, the 55-year-old former lecturer can now do so for 1km.

She credits her stronger body to the rehabilitation programme customised for her at the new community- based cancer rehab centre, officially launched yesterday.

“They give you one-to-one attention, focusing on your weaknesses,” said Madam Kaur of the centre.

The Jurong East centre at Jem Office Tower is the first rehabilitation centre in the community catering specifically for cancer patients and survivors. It offers customised physical therapy as well as psychosocial and nutritional help. Caregivers can also receive training there. Since it began operations last November, over 70 patients and survivors have used it.

At the centre’s official launch, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said specialised cancer rehabilitation services and programmes had previously been limited to the hospital setting.

“As a result, most patients are unable to receive sufficient follow-up rehabilitation after they have been discharged,” he said, adding that he was glad the centre run by the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) will help close that gap.

Cancer remains the leading cause of death here, accounting for three out of every10 deaths last year.

In 2014, surveys by the SCS and National University Hospital showed that 87 per cent of patients and survivors suffered lifelong, life-impairing changes in their physical abilities as a result of the disease and its treatment.

Of these, only 46 per cent sought physical rehabilitative treatment.

Forty-four per cent said that they would not undergo hospital-based rehabilitation even if it was necessary, citing difficulty with transport and high costs as two major hurdles.

The new centre’s location was chosen as it is easily accessible by train and bus, and close to three hospitals.

Two SCS vans provide transportation services and facilitate access to the centre for patients who are financially needy or immobile.

Dr Ng Yee Sien, chairman of the SCS Cancer Rehabilitation Management Committee, said the need for community cancer rehab centres will keep growing as survival rates keep rising with better treatment.