Cancer Rehab: An Underutilized Aspect of Cancer Care


Arch Cox, CPT, CES

In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, the cancer was diagnosed in the early stages, and she underwent a mastectomy of the affected breast followed by radiation of the surrounding tissue. The treatment was considered successful, and she remains cancer-free today.

This being said, however, the disease and its treatments had other damaging long-term  effects on her health. Approximately one year after treatment ended, she developed restrictive lung disease from the scar tissue that formed because of the radiation therapy. Lung disease has greatly diminished her quality of life because she has to use use oxygen throughout the day when her oxygen saturation levels are below normal range. As a result, she is unable to sustain even moderate levels of physical activity.

At the time of my mother’s treatment and recovery, she was prescribed a handful of Physical and Occupational Therapy sessions by her doctor. While this was proactive on the physician’s part, the few sessions she had with the Physical and Occupational Therapist were not intensive enough – or for a long enough duration – to improve her respiratory condition and prevent it from worsening. While rehab and exercise cannot reverse the lung disease, proper intervention in the short- and long- term could have reduced its impact.

My mother’s experience is just one example of why cancer survivors need not just the appropriate amount of PT and/or OT but a long-term fitness plan to regain – and maintain – good physical health and the best possible quality of life. There are important physiological and psychological benefits that come from being able to do the things you could do pre-treatment.

Cancer has touched the lives of everyone in one way or another. In my case my mother’s cancer diagnosis directly impacted my career path. I have made it my mission to increase awareness of the importance of exercise as a part of the cancer recovery process. I believe I make a difference in the lives of survivors through exercise and physical fitness despite a cancer diagnosis. I believe I have an advantage, as well, because I know that working with appropriately trained health professionals who understand the needs of survivors can greatly increase well-being and improve quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

Guest blogger Arch Cox is the co-lead of Cancer CARE, the cancer exercise division of Oncology Rehab and Wellness. You may contact Arch at

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