What is Oncology Rehab?
Oncology rehabilitation is a type of physical therapy designed to improve physical function during and after cancer treatment. Oncology physical therapists receive extra training to address the unique needs of individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer-related surgeries, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Who should seek Oncology Rehabilitation?
Anyone who has undergone any type of cancer treatment – including surgery, chemo, radiation, and/or endocrine therapy – may experience side effects impacting mobility, comfort and quality of life. Oncology rehabilitation can help people recovering from all types of cancer.
Why should I seek Oncology Rehabilitation?
Surgery can lead to tissue and scar tightness, range of motion restrictions, weakness, swelling and pain. Physical therapy utilizes manual techniques and exercise to assist in improving tissue quality, endurance, range of motion, circulation, pain and overall function.
Radiation treatment may cause fatigue, swelling, and hardening of tissues resulting in restriction of motion and poor tolerance to activity. Oncology rehabilitation addresses these side effects using manual techniques to soften tissues and improve circulation. Rehab teaches energy conservation techniques, exercise and stretching, as well as postural and body mechanics optimization
Research shows that an exercise routine can help decrease some of the side effects of chemotherapy including fatigue, joint pain, neuropathy (nerve symptoms like numbness and tingling), balance issues and difficulty sleeping. Safe and appropriate physical therapy aids in the reduction of potential and/or ongoing chemotherapy side effects.
Endocrine Therapy (Anti-Estrogen and Androgen Deprivation Therapies) –
Endocrine therapies can cause bone loss, joint and muscle pain, weight gain, fatigue and weakness. Research supports that a consistent exercise program can reduce these side effects and improve quality of life. Oncology rehab can assist in developing an individualized exercise program specific to your current physical activity level with a focus on reducing side effects and improving tolerance to prescribed medications.
Lymphatic Injury from Lymph Node Removal and Radiation –
A person’s lymphatic system is injured from both lymph node dissection and radiation treatment. The lymphatic system aids in the movement of fluid through your body and promoting immune function. Lymphedema, an abnormal swelling that may occur after any type of cancer treatment, presents itself with:
- heaviness, achiness or tightness in the region of cancer treatment
- swelling in the region of cancer treatment
Lymphedema can be treated by a certified lymphedema therapist using Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This therapy treatment includes patient education, compression, decongestive exercises to increase circulation and fluid movement, and manual techniques to reroute excess fluid out of the area while softening tissue firmness and improving the lymphatic system’s pumping action
When should I begin Oncology Rehabilitation?
Oncology rehabilitation is appropriate and effective at any point during cancer treatment. Some people are assessed prior to surgery to get baseline measurements and learn how to safely return to exercise afterwards. Others receive rehab after surgery, during chemo and/or radiation or at any point in their survivorship/recovery process.
How do I get started?
Recovering from cancer treatment can be an ongoing process. In time, most people utilizing oncology rehab return to normal activities. Resources are available to assist in improving your quality of life during or after cancer treatment.
If you are currently undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment, contact us today. Ask your oncologist, plastic surgeon, radiation oncologist or any MD on your team for a referral. If your cancer treatment team is not familiar with an oncology specialized physical therapist in your area here are some directories to help.
https://aptaapps.apta.org/APTAPTDirectory/FindAPTDirectory.aspx (search under specialization)
Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos PT, DPT, CLT-LANA
**Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos PT, DPT, CLT-LANA is a certified lymphedema therapist, oncology physical therapist and Director of Rehab at Cancer Rehab and Integrative Medicine in Austin, TX.