Rehabilitation isn’t only for older people or those who are recovering from injuries. Rehabilitation can benefit you in many ways through physical, occupational and speech therapies. During the course of your cancer journey, you may experience a lot of changes, some physical and some mental. Specialized cancer rehabilitation can help assist you in moving forward after treatment and improving overall quality of life.
One of the more obvious ways rehabilitation is beneficial is that it can improve mobility and function. During treatment, you may have been less active and gotten weaker, so you may need some help regaining your strength. Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy may have caused certain side effects that altered your balance, range of motion, or decreased sensation, requiring assistance in adapting to those changes.
One of the most common side effects of cancer treatment is fatigue. Fatigue that doesn’t improve overtime or that interferes with your quality of life can be treated with rehabilitation services. Therapists can do this by educating you on energy-conserving techniques and fitting you for assistive devices, if needed. They can develop a safe exercise regimen for you that includes both aerobic and strengthening exercises, as exercise is proven to help decrease fatigue.
Lymphedema is swelling to the area of the body near where the lymph nodes have been removed and/or lymphatic vessels have been damaged. This can cause discomfort and affect your mobility or function. Rehabilitation can help by fitting you for a compression garment, providing lymphatic massage, and helping to decrease your risk of infection.
Sometimes people experience pain during or after their treatment. Pain can be caused by the cancer itself or can be a side effect of treatment. Surgery and radiation can often leave scar tissue that is painful and interferes with movement. Therapists can use a technique called scar tissue mobilization to treat this. Pain can also be caused by peripheral neuropathy, which is tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes. Peripheral neuropathy can cause issues with balance due to decreased sensation. These issues can be treated with balance and strengthening training, massage, stretching, and sensory re-education.
Sexual Side Effects
Some people experience sexual side effects from their treatments, including vaginal dryness, incontinence, and pain with intercourse. Rehabilitation offers programs to help strengthen the pelvic floor and help you address these symptoms.
“Chemo brain” is a side effect experienced by some having difficulty finding the right words and/or are more forgetful. This typically gets better over time, but in cases where it doesn’t improve or interferes with work, school, or daily living, rehabilitation can offer cognitive retraining and strengthening.
Would you benefit from rehab services? Talk to your health care provider.
UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center offers cancer rehabilitation with Dr. Megan Nelson, a provider with UofL Physicians – Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation who has specialty training in cancer rehabilitation. She helps coordinate rehabilitation needs for any patient with a history of any type of cancer. To make an appointment, call 502-588-2160.
Cancer rehabilitation is also available through UofL Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services. Call 502-562-3457 to learn more.