CANCER REHABILITATION INFORMATION
Whether you are a cancer patient, cancer survivor, care partner or health care professional, it is our hope you will find information here to give you a better understanding of cancer rehabilitation and its role in improving the lives of people affected by cancer.
Cancer Rehabilitation is the area of cancer care that treats the musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary and functional impairments expected with cancer treatment, cancer survivorship, advanced disease and end of life. The most common of these problems include fatigue, pain, weakness, stiffness, fibrosis and scarring, difficulty walking and the overall inability to function normally. Depending on the type of cancer, additional problems can occur including poor balance, swelling, lymphedema, incontinence, weight loss or weight gain, problems swallowing, cognitive issues and sexual health issues. Rehabilitation can reduce, eliminate and even prevent many of these issues, making cancer treatment more effective and less damaging, and cancer survivorship healthier. Cancer rehabilitation services are provided by physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs) and speech and language pathologists (SLPs).
Research shows that cancer rehabilitation can both increase the quality and length of life for people with cancer! Rehabilitation and exercise may even assist in decreasing the risk of recurrence of some cancers. Now that is some powerful stuff!
It is estimated that 90% of cancer patients and 40% of cancer survivors suffer with multiple physical problems that can be reduced, eliminated or prevented with rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is covered by nearly every insurance company. Still, rehabilitation is offered to less than 30% of the people that could directly benefit from it.
“Cancer rehabilitation is evidence based, insurance covered medical care that all people diagnosed with cancer deserve access to.” - Dr. Leslie J. Waltke
Ask yourself this…
- Why would a person with fallopian tube cancer need a physical therapist?
- Why would a woman with breast cancer who is pain free and has had “just” a partial mastectomy and a sentinel lymph node biopsy need a rehab consult?
- Why would a man with terminal colon cancer need rehabilitation?
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers, it is normal to be stumped! Read on a bit more and the answers will become clear or scroll to the bottom of the page now for the answers!
This article was awarded "2014 Article of the Year" by the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews!
Overview of CA Rehabilitation & Exercise in the Literature
Physical Therapy and Cording
In 2011 Dr. Waltke co-founded Team Phoenix along with breast oncology surgeon, Dr. Judy Tjoe. Team Phoenix is a medically directed, goal oriented triathlon training program for female cancer survivors. We collect medical and psychological research data with the goals of increasing health and wellness after cancer and creating life long fitness GO TEAM PHOENIX!
Results: CA Survivor Triathlon Training
If you’ve ever heard Dr. Waltke speak, here are the bullet points she often highlights!
“Cancer rehabilitation is evidence based, third party reimbursed medical care that all patients with cancer deserve access to.”
“Persons after stroke, disease, accident and major surgery are routinely ushered into rehabilitation. Then why not after cancer?”
“We have to stop treating cancer patients like they’re going to break!”
“Evidence suggests that cancer rehabilitation increases quality of life, lengthens life and may improve overall survival.”
“As the volume of cancer patients and survivors increases, the need for cancer rehabilitation services is sky rocketing, and will continue to do so for decades to come.”
“Cancer rehabilitation is truly proactive care in the very reactive environment of cancer care.”
“Evidence suggests that rehabilitation in cancer care decreases hospital length of stays, decreases re-admissions, decreases fall risk, decreases emergency department visits.
“The best evidence based treatment for cancer-related fatigue, is exercise.”
“Rehabilitation and exercise are grossly underutilized in cancer care.”
“When we in healthcare possess the treatment tools to decrease the suffering and loss with cancer treatment and survivorship, it is imperative that we utilize them.”
“Rehabilitation can save the health system money while it makes the health system money.”
“Rehabilitation leads to happier and healthier cancer patients and survivors. Happier and healthier cancer patients and survivors lead to happier and healthier health systems.”
So back to those questions…
Why would a person with fallopian tube cancer need a physical therapist? Because she will likely have undergone surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation this person will most likely develop fatigue, pain and weakness. The best way to treat and eliminate these problems is with physical therapy.
Why would a woman with breast cancer who is pain free and has had “just” a partial mastectomy and a sentinel lymph node biopsy need a rehab consult? Even if a patient is pain free and functioning well after surgery, those that will be exposed to chemotherapy and/or radiation (as in this case) will most likely encounter fatigue, pain, weakness and fibrosis and will be well served by a course of cancer rehabilitation.
Why would a man with terminal colon cancer need rehabilitation? Keeping people at the end of their lives, strong (both body and heart and lungs), safe and comfortable leads to better quality of life, improved independence and may even add to length of life.