What Can Cancer Rehab Help With?
Cancer rehabilitation, or physical therapy specialized in the treatment of cancer-related side effects/impairments, is an available service for cancer patients and survivors that to date remains highly underutilized.
Interventions can help throughout the continuum of cancer care from the time of diagnosis though treatment and into palliative care and can assist patients with living their best life with or beyond cancer. While these services are available, many patients and oncology clinicians are not yet fully aware of what cancer rehab can do to help cancer patients and survivors improve their quality of life and live well. Cancer rehab, provided by physical therapists is a service that is covered by insurance and can help in the following ways:
Weakness and deconditioning: medically monitored exercise program development and implementation, balance and posture training, fall prevention, core strengthening and endurance/aerobic training, home exercise program development and assistance with transition to community exercise programs.
Balance/walking problems: exercise program for improving balance and reducing falls. Gait training to assist with improving mobility and recommendations for any assistive devices needed.
Decreased ability to engage in activities of daily living: education on energy conservation strategies, strength/endurance training, functional training. Recommendations for home modifications that may make these tasks easier.
Cancer related fatigue: exercise has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce cancer related fatigue in addition to energy conservation training. Education on adjustments to your daily routine can enable you to complete the things you want to do.
Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: muscle strengthening, balance training, pain management treatments, massage and sensory/fine motor training. Home exercises to improve your functional abilities.
Pain: pain management treatments to include manual therapy/massage, scar tissue massage, trigger point therapy, modalities for pain treatment (such as heat, electrical stimulation, laser therapy), joint range of motion exercises.
Swelling caused by surgery, radiation or cancer treatment side effects: edema management/lymphedema treatment by certified lymphedema therapists (CLT). Lymphatic drainage, compression therapy (for arms, legs, trunk, breast, head/face and neck), skin care education, exercises to reduce swelling, kinesiotaping techniques.
With all of the benefits of cancer rehabilitation, improving access to this care is critical in order to provide cancer patients and survivors with solutions to cancer treatment related problems. Improving the knowledge of these benefits and improving patient access to care is the mission of cancer rehab professionals everywhere. Speaking with your oncology team is the best place to start to advocate for your needs and to get referred to services that can greatly improve your life.