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Finding a Qualified Cancer Rehab Therapist

Oncology Rehab Owner and Clinician Cheryl GuarnaAs I discussed in last week’s blog, the importance of physical activity during and after cancer treatment is becoming more and more recognized. We now know that cancer treatments, while very effective at saving lives, can also damage organ systems leaving survivors at risk for complications even years after cancer treatment ends. Cancer rehab can address and sometimes even reverse these complications, so let’s look at a few of the professional designations you might look for in a physical or occupational therapist. (Some massage therapists may also hold these designations.)

Becoming a cancer rehab clinician is more than placing the word “cancer” in front of “rehab.” It requires time, dedication and ongoing education specific to how cancer and its subsequent treatments impact the human body and mind. The following nationally recognized certifications are indicative of experience and education in cancer rehab.

Nationally Recognized Certification Programs
STAR/C – A STAR Clinician Certification (Survivorship Training and Rehab) is administered by Oncology Rehab Partners. Certification includes comprehensive training on and testing for the identification and treatment of cancer-related impairments. Search for a STAR Certified Clinician at oncologyrehabpartners.com.

CLT – The Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) designation is administered by several schools. Therapists participate in a rigorous 135 hours of education and training on Complete Decongestive Therapy, or CDT, which is the most effective method for treating lymphedema. The nationally recognized schools that provide such training and certification are:

Each of these web sites provides a search tool to easily look for a properly trained and certified clinician in a specific geographic area, and they also offer a wealth of information about lymphedema. Survivors may also locate lymphedema therapists via the National Lymphedema Network (NLN).. This is a paid professional membership organization, so only CLTs who are paid members are listed.

CLT-LANA – This Certified Lymphedema Therapist designation is the same as above but with advanced education in lymphedema management and certification by the Lymphology Association of North America, or LANA. Locate a LANA Certified therapist using LANA’s search tool.

Additional Search Tools
aptaFindptYou may also locate a cancer rehab specialist (or a therapist with experience in the rehab of cancer survivors) in your region by using the “Find a PT” search tool at American Physical Therapy Associations (APTA) web site. You can search using zip code, city, distance, and therapist or practice name. Under “Practice Area” select “Cancer.” APTA is currently working toward the development of an oncology specialist certification. Program development updates can be found at oncologypt.org.

Ask Questions
To ensure your therapist has adequate experience working with cancer patients and survivors and has the specialty professional designations you want, ask questions. Talk to your doctor about the clinician to whom he/she is referring you, and do not be surprised if cancer-specific rehab is new information. This is a rapidly growing – but relatively new area – of your cancer care team, so you may have more information than your physicians. Then talk to the rehab clinician during your initial visit. Although this visit is deemed an “assessment” visit for the clinician to determine your abilities and weaknesses, it is also an opportunity for you to learn more about this new person on your team. Ask about certifications, ongoing oncology education, and how much of their work is with cancer survivors.

If you have any questions about this blog or any other blog post, please email me at cguarna@oncrehabandwellness.com.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG: Finding a Qualified Cancer Exercise Professional

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