Many cancer patients and survivors deal with the after-effects of cancer treatment, such as pain and impaired functioning. Many of these “late effects” can linger even years after cancer treatment has ended. Nevertheless, few patients receive the needed care to address these issues. Cancer rehabilitation, or physical therapy specializing in the physical problems related to cancer and its treatments, is a service that is available but rarely utilized.
Now, researchers, oncology exercise specialists and clinicians are shedding light on this problem faced by nearly 90% of patients with cancer and cancer survivors. The problem stems from a disconnect between cancer rehabilitation providers, cancer patients and the health care professionals that are on the front lines that are able to refer patients for these services. Insurance will pay for many if not most of the services, but patients are often not made aware that these services are available. Many oncology clinicians are not fully aware that these services are even available. Prescribed exercise and treatment, provided by cancer rehab physical, occupational and speech therapists is covered by insurances, but yet many patients and oncology clinicians are left to feel they are on their own to follow a physical activity or exercise program.
If you are uncertain as to if cancer rehab is right for you the following questions should be asked:
- Do you feel weak or lack stamina?
- Do you have significant fatigue that prevents
you from doing the things you want (or need) to do?
- Do you have numbness, tingling or pain in your
hands or feet after chemotherapy treatment?
- Do you experience balance loss, trouble walking or
have you had falls?
- Do you have shortness of breath that limits your
ability to complete independent exercise or daily tasks?
- Do you have pain, joint stiffness or muscle
aches after surgery?
- Do have swelling caused by surgery or radiation?
If you answered YES to any of these questions then a referral to a cancer rehab physical therapist is warranted. Its never too late to be referred and its never too late to treat conditions that you may have been suffering with for months or years.
Cancer rehabilitation therapists can teach and administer individualized, rehabilitative and safe exercise programs. Cancer rehab clinicians maintain close contact with your oncology team to ensure treatment of your problems is safe, effective and a beneficial part of your cancer recovery plan.
Make yourself a priority and ask your oncology team for a referral to a cancer rehab therapist who can assist you with living your best life during – or beyond cancer.