Lung Cancer Rehab

Lung cancer can be debilitating.  So can its conventional treatments.  Our team of cancer therapy experts are here to help your lung cancer recovery before, during, and after your oncology treatments to address whatever issues you may face.

Our physical therapists provide lung cancer rehab using breath training, stretching and strengthening exercises, oxygen therapy as needed, and habit training for energy conservation. Our wholistic approach is expertly tailored for you to help optimize the speed and fullness of your recovery.

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Lung cancer can be debilitating.  So can its conventional treatments.  Our team of cancer therapy experts are here to help your lung cancer recovery before, during, and after your oncology treatments to address whatever issues you may face.

Our physical therapists provide lung cancer rehab using breath training, stretching and strengthening exercises, oxygen therapy as needed, and habit training for energy conservation. Our wholistic approach is expertly tailored for you to help optimize the speed and fullness of your recovery.

Conventional Lung Cancer Treatments and Their Side Effects

Our cancer exercise specialists specifically address the numerous side effects from conventional lung cancer treatments. We will work with you to prevent, minimize, and reverse many of these effects through our lung cancer recovery program. 

Treatments for lung cancer typically include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other drug therapies–all of which negatively impact you body’s structure and function. These treatments also are known to adversely affect physical conditioning, breathing ability, bone & nerve health, and immune function.

If you are receiving one or more of these treatments, you are fighting more than cancer–you’re also faced with the potential for numerous side effects, reactions, and comorbidities.

  • Surgery
    Surgeries for lung cancer range from removing a small portion of tissue to removing an entire lung.  Technologies (including video and robotics) now allow for less-invasive operations than formerly, but any surgery in the chest cavity is significant and carries risk.  Complications can include reactions to anesthesia, excess bleeding, blood clots in the legs or lungs, and infections, including pneumonia.  One obvious result, even with a fully successful surgery, with be a lowered lung capacity.  If lymph nodes are impacted, there can be additional side effects similar to those seen in breast cancer patients.
  • Radiation
    The use of a beam of X-rays, gamma rays, etc. to kill cancer. Side effects can include fatigue, radiation fibrosis, osteoporosis of the ribs, scarring, tightness, pain, changes in skin color & texture, nerve pain & numbness, lymphedema, and secondary cancer.

    • Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy is one of several “more focused” radiotherapies, which work to minimize damage to surrounding tissues.  These carry the same types of risks as standard radiation therapy but symptoms may be reduced. Read more at cancer.org.
  • Chemotherapy
    Chemotherapies operate in various ways but all attempt to chemically poison the cancer.  Risks vary by type of chemo (do your research!), but commonly include hair loss, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and mouth sores.  Many types are known to cause osteoporosis, nerve damage, edema (swelling), difficulty breathing, rashes, fainting, kidney problems, and more.
  • Targeted Drug Therapy
    Non-chemotherapeutic cancer drugs which target new blood vessel growth (common in tumors) or which target cells with certain gene changes (specific to cancers).  Common side effects include dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding or blood pressure issues, swelling, and vision changes.
  • Immunotherapy
    Various types of drugs that “unchain” the immune system, hoping to induce it into attacking the cancer more strongly.  Side effects can range from unpleasant (nausea, fatigue, itching, vertigo) to life-threatening (auto-immune conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy organs).

Are you looking for relief from any of these side effects?  Please request a consultation to tell us about your condition, and we will recommend therapy services to help you.

Physical Therapy Treatments for Lung Cancer Survivors

Ideally, you will have a “baselining” appointment with your physical therapist prior to any cancer treatment (here’s why).  Following initial cancer treatment, your PT will perform another comprehensive evaluation focused on your lung capacity, current level of endurance, and muscle strength.  After reviewing this information (and comparing it against the baseline, if available), your therapist will create a rehabilitation plan with attainable goals scaled just for you.

The initial phase of rehab includes education about your diagnosis, nutritional information, breathing techniques, and energy conservation counseling.  The next phase includes a comprehensive exercise plan of stretching, aerobic exercise, and strength training.

  • Breathing techniques
    Correct breathing techniques are essential to increasing the strength of the muscles involved in breathing.  We rarely think about strengthening the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles of the ribs–we don’t even think enough about our breathing!  Yet after lung cancer surgery it is these muscles that have weakened, causing the shortness of breath common in many patients.  During this phase of your rehab you will be taught breathing techniques such as “pursed lip breathing” and “diaphragmatic breathing.”

    Proper breathing also increases mind-body connections (awareness/attention); puts the body into a relaxed (parasympathetic) state, which promotes healing; and enhances oxygenation and detoxification of all the body’s tissues.  All good things for everybody–but particular for those recovering from cancer.

  • Supplemental oxygen
    Sometimes patients’ oxygen levels fall too low and supplemental oxygen may be required for a short time after surgery or other treatments.  Your therapist is trained to monitor your oxygen levels and will be able to advise you if your oxygen is too low.  Physical therapists are able to help provide education for the proper use of oxygen as well.
  • Energy conservation
    The body burns oxygen as fuel, so a direct result of labored breathing is decreased energy.  Your physical therapist will provide you with suggestions to conserve your energy, which includes prioritizing activities and making sure the most important tasks get done first.  Plan your activities a week in advance so that you spread out your activities throughout the week.
  • Exercise
    The mainstay of your post-treatment lung cancer rehab is exercise therapy designed to improve endurance and increase lung capacity.  Your therapist will monitor your progress and adjust your plan as you steadily regain your strength and endurance.  You will be trained in exercises you can do at home, as well.

    There are three key areas of exercise therapy for post-surgical lung cancer rehab: 

    • Stretching restores mobility in the chest and back which allows freer movement of the lungs and diaphragm (among many other more general benefits).
    • Aerobic exercise includes cardiopulmonary training on a stationary bicycle or treadmill.  It strengthens the heart and lungs and increases their capacity.  
    • Strength training is also crucial.  Even if you’ve never done this type of exercise before, rehab can help you get started with a tailored program to improve your function.  

    Your program starts where YOU are, with the goal is getting you back to doing the things you love–and need–to do.  Cancer rehab helps you get back to living–maybe even stronger than before your diagnosis.

  • Nutrition
    A diverse, healthy, nutrient-rich diet is crucial in any battle with cancer.  Our dietitians will work with you to assess and optimize your diet–not an easy task when dealing with nausea or lack of appetite!  (And all cancer treatments can impact your body’s ability to digest and use nutrients.)  For some basic information, see our blog post on Nutrition in Cancer Rehabilitation.

Patient Outcomes and Reviews

Our oncology physical therapists have an excellent track record of success in preventing, minimizing, and reversing many of the effects of lung cancer and its treatments.  Here are some of the results:

"Cheryl is every doctor’s “go to”. And they are right to send their patients. What a difference she made in my life when i came to her after surgery, then again after muscle weakness from medication. My mobility has improved 10 fold and I don’t need a walker any more 😃. I would highly recommend Cheryl to anyone looking for a physical therapist."

"This dedicated group of physical therapist have been a wonderful addition to my recovery. The plan that Cheryl Guarna put together for me has really been helpful to my recovery.

I feel so much better with more energy and stamina. I am working with Medicare and my supplemental insurance supplier now to extend my visits for as long as possible. The facilities are top notch and well maintained. Scheduling and flexibility are easy and flexible.

I strongly recommend Oncology Rehab!"

"Cheryl was such a support to me mentally as well as physically while recovering from cancer surgery. ... I would 100% recommend her and her team to anyone who is recovering from cancer and the related effects of treatment. We are so fortunate in Northern VA to have access to this excellent care."

Get Started with Lung Cancer Rehab

Ready to learn more about your lung cancer recovery options? We’re ready to provide you with a free consultation.

During our consultation, one of our cancer rehab therapists will discuss your treatment options in detail and design a personal treatment plan to address your specific needs and timeline.

Appointments are available within 7 days. Since we are a direct-access provider, a physician referral is not required, and our therapy services are in-network with most plans from major insurance providers.

Availability

Appointments are available within 7 days.

Referrals

You can call us directly. No need for a physician referral.

Insurance

We are in-network with most major providers.

Don't let lung cancer treatment affect your quality of life.

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