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What is Cancer Rehabilitation?

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Cancer, a relentless adversary that affects millions worldwide, often leaves survivors grappling with physical, emotional, and functional challenges. While the primary goal of cancer treatment is to eradicate the disease, the journey doesn't end there. Post-treatment, survivors may experience a range of debilitating side effects, impairments, and diminished quality of life. This is where cancer rehabilitation plays a pivotal role, offering a comprehensive approach to support survivors in their recovery and empowering them to reclaim their lives. In this blog, we will explore what cancer rehabilitation entails and why it is crucial for the well-being of cancer survivors.

Understanding Cancer Rehabilitation:

Cancer rehabilitation refers to a specialized branch of healthcare aimed at addressing the unique needs of individuals who have undergone cancer treatment. It involves a multidisciplinary approach that combines various therapies and interventions to address physical, emotional, and functional impairments caused by cancer and its treatment. The goal of cancer rehab is to enhance survivors' overall well-being, restore optimal functioning, and improve their quality of life.

Why Cancer Rehabilitation is Important for Cancer Survivors:

  • Restores Physical Functioning: Cancer and its treatments can often lead to physical impairments, such as muscle weakness, pain, fatigue, and reduced range of motion. Cancer rehabilitation utilizes targeted exercises, physical therapy, and other interventions to rebuild strength, improve mobility, and alleviate pain. These interventions are tailored to each survivor's specific needs, taking into account their unique cancer type, treatment history, current physical abilities and their cancer status.
  • Helps With Managing Treatment Side Effects: Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can result in a range of side effects that impact survivors' daily lives. These may include lymphedema, neuropathy, cognitive difficulties ("chemo brain"), and gastrointestinal issues, among others. Cancer rehabilitation provides strategies to manage these side effects, minimize their impact, and improve survivors' overall comfort and well-being.
  • Enhances Emotional and Psychological Well-being: A cancer diagnosis and treatment journey can take a significant toll on one's mental health. Survivors may experience anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence, and post-traumatic stress. Cancer rehabilitation incorporates counseling, support groups, and mental health interventions to address survivors' emotional needs and promote psychological well-being.
  • Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle: Cancer survivors can greatly benefit from adopting healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of recurrence and improve overall health. Cancer rehabilitation provides education and guidance on nutrition, exercise, stress management, and smoking cessation, empowering survivors to make informed choices and take control of their long-term health.
  • Empowers Survivorship: Cancer rehabilitation encourages survivors to actively participate in their recovery process, empowering them to regain independence and self-confidence. By equipping survivors with the necessary tools, skills, and resources, cancer rehab helps them transition from being patients to active participants in their own survivorship.

Cancer rehabilitation is an essential component of comprehensive cancer care that focuses on addressing the physical, emotional, and functional challenges faced by cancer survivors. By providing a multidisciplinary approach to recovery, cancer rehab helps survivors regain physical function, manage treatment side effects, enhance emotional well-being, adopt healthy lifestyle changes, promote social integration, and empower survivorship. Through personalized care and support, cancer rehabilitation plays a vital role in improving the quality of life for cancer survivors, enabling them to move forward with renewed strength, resilience, and hope.

To learn more about cancer rehab and the services offered at Oncology Rehab and Wellness:

Cancer rehabilitation is a supportive health care program. The goals of cancer rehabilitation are:

  • Help you stay as active as possible and participate in family, work, and other life roles
  • Lessen the side effects and symptoms of cancer and its treatment
  • Help you stay as independent as possible
  • Improve your quality of life

Cancer rehabilitation is given by trained rehabilitation professionals that you can work with during treatment, follow-up care, or long-term survivorship.

When should I get cancer rehabilitation?

Talk with your health care team about cancer rehabilitation any time you notice a change that makes you less active or makes everyday tasks more difficult. Ask yourself:

  • Am I having more trouble getting around?
  • Am I having pain, weakness, or other symptoms?
  • Am I having trouble thinking clearly?

It is important to address the changes you notice as early as possible, so they do not worsen. For example, a little bit of joint stiffness that keeps you from reaching overhead may result in you using your arms less. As a result, your arm may become weaker and stiffer over time.

You can also ask your health care team about seeing a cancer rehabilitation professional before cancer treatment begins. The rehabilitation professional can measure your strength, mobility, and activities before problems start. They may recommend changes to help you prepare physically and mentally for cancer treatment, called prehabilitation. You can then be monitored throughout treatment and beyond to catch issues before they become serious. This approach can increase your quality of life and it can reduce symptoms and problems that can impact your life.

What physical problems can cancer rehabilitation help?

Cancer and cancer treatment can cause many different kinds of physical problems. Cancer rehabilitation can help with many of them, including:

  • Pain, swelling, and weakness
  • Range of motion, flexibility, and balance issues
  • Skin changes
  • Neuropathy, or numbness and tingling in hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual health problems
  • Problems swallowing or chewing food

Learn more about the physical side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.

What mobility problems can cancer rehabilitation help?

Mobility problems affect how a person moves around. Cancer rehabilitation can help if you have difficulty:

  • Getting up off the floor
  • Getting out of a chair
  • Climbing stairs
  • Walking
  • Getting dressed
  • Showering

Learn more about staying safe and active during cancer treatment.

Questions to ask your cancer care team

Consider asking your health care team the following questions about cancer rehabilitation to find out if it would be a good fit for you:

  • Are there ways I can prepare myself physically and mentally for cancer treatment?
  • Is it likely I will need physical therapy, speech therapy, nutrition guidance, or another type of rehabilitation during or after my cancer treatment?
  • What type of cancer rehabilitation would you recommend for me?
  • How can this rehabilitation help me?
  • Can you recommend a cancer rehabilitation specialist who can help me with the specific side effect I am experiencing?
  • What can I do at home to stay as safe and independent as possible?

Ensure you are receiving all of the care that would benefit you on your cancer journey.  Physical therapy is a valuable component of comprehensive cancer care. It offers a range of benefits for cancer patients, including restoring physical function, managing treatment side effects, enhancing energy levels, improving emotional well-being, and promoting long-term survivorship. If you or a loved one is undergoing cancer treatment, consider incorporating physical therapy into your care plan. Consult with a healthcare professional to find a qualified physical therapist who specializes in cancer rehabilitation. Remember, physical therapy can empower you to regain control of your body and improve your overall quality of life throughout your cancer journey.