Getting well: Cancer rehab

BY GUEST
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 28, 2010
CURE invited Julie Silver, MD, cancer survivor and rehabilitation specialist, to offer suggestions on healing physically after cancer.

One of the questions I am often asked is, "What exactly is cancer rehab?"

Since rehab has not traditionally been part of the cancer care continuum, it's not surprising that many people are confused about what it might involve. However, if someone has a stroke, then most people understand that rehab involves doctors who can order tests and prescribe medications and other treatments. Rehab also usually involves physical therapy and may involve occupational and speech therapy as well. An individual with a hip replacement usually requires orthopedic rehab with physician involvement and physical therapy at a minimum. Cancer rehab is very similar to all other kinds of rehab. The goals are the same--help someone function at the highest possible level by building up their strength and stamina, reducing pain and fatigue, improving problems with balance, gait swallowing, joint range of motion and a host of other problems.

In short, rehab is a critical part of cancer care. But, few survivors ever get it. Why?

There are probably a lot of reasons why cancer survivors don't get rehab, but the one that people often cite (which simply isn't true) is that in the past there weren't survivors to treat. That hasn't been an issue for more than half a century. Sure, every year acute cancer treatments get better and better, but surviving cancer is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, offering cancer rehab to survivors is. Even though cancer rehab has been around for a long time, it is not usually part of the care continuum, so few survivors ever get it.

Indeed, developments in and acceptance of cardiac rehab and other forms of physical retaliation are many decades ahead of cancer rehab. And, cancer survivors are needlessly suffering. Being told over and over again to "accept a new normal" when instead they should be referred for appropriate rehabilitation interventions and offered the opportunity to heal as well as possible.

So, the next time someone tells you to accept a new normal, try asking them if they've heard about the growing movement in cancer care--cancer rehab. If they need more information, here are some quick facts:

Who are the main cancer rehab experts?

Physiatrists (doctors in physical medicine and rehabilitation or PM&R) and physical/occupational/speech therapists. There are many others who contribute to rehabilitation care, but start your rehab with these experts.

What are the benefits of cancer rehab?

Improving your physical--and emotional--function.

Why is cancer rehab needed?

Because it's not fair to survivors to tell them to accept a new normal when there is proven medical care that can help.

How do I know if cancer rehab will help me?

If you would benefit from one or more of the things on this list, talk to your doctor about cancer rehab:

> Improve endurance and cardiovascular conditioning

> Increase muscular strength

> Improve joint range of motion

> Decrease pain

> Lessen fatigue

> Improve swallowing

> Improve speech

> Assist with surgical recovery

> Improve immune function

> Increase bone density

> Manage lymphedema

> Improve physical function

> Improve balance and coordination

> Improve quality of life

> Decrease psychological distress

Why isn't cancer rehab part of my cancer center or hospital?

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
x-button
Special Feature
Share Your Art
Related Articles
BRCA Mutations May Cause Drug Resistance in Breast and Ovarian Cancer
There is a relationship between the genetics of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and the risk of a patient with breast or ovarian cancer being resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy, according to recent research conducted at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study’s senior author Katherine Nathanson, M.D., spoke with CURE about these findings.
Sarah Sciortino on Fertility and Sexuality in Younger Patients with Ovarian Cancer
Sarah Sciortino, MSW, LSW, Oncology Psychosocial Support Services Program Coordinator at University of Chicago Hospital, discusses the unique concerns that younger patients with ovarian cancer can face.
Caring With Confidence: Study Examines Caregiver Mastery and Patient Survival in GBM
A recent study found that the level of family caregiver mastery may have an effect on the survival of patients with glioblastoma.
Related Videos
Examining Quality of Life Issues for Patients With MPNs
Sandra Allen-Bard, MSN, ANCC, AOCNP, of Weill Cornell Medical Center, discusses the impact myeloproliferative neoplasms can have on patients' quality of life.
Elliott Winton on the Changing Landscape of MPN Treatment
Elliott Winton, M.D., researcher, physician and 2016 MPN Hero, discusses some of the drastic changes that happened over the past decade or so in the world of MPNs. 
Siddhartha Mukherjee on Increasing MPN Awareness
Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D, an oncologist, researcher and Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, discusses the increasing awareness about myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs).
x
//For side ad protocol