Rehabilitation After Cancer

Improving the Well-Being of Cancer Survivors

Man and woman walking dog through woods.Treatment for cancer can take a toll on your body – both physically and mentally. People who go through treatment and survived cancer may have physical, emotional, and social issues that affect their quality of life, no matter what kind of cancer they have been treated for. Cancer rehabilitation programs can often improve function, reduce pain, and improve the well-being of cancer survivors.

The goal of cancer rehabilitation is to help patients return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life — physically, emotionally, and socially.

These goals are often met by:

  • Decreasing swelling
  • Improving balance
  • Improving bowel and bladder function
  • Improving functional independence with self-care
  • Improving independence with activities of daily living
  • Improving physical conditioning, endurance,and exercise performance
  • Improving social, cognitive, emotional, and vocational status
  • Managing pain

Cancer Rehabilitation Team

Many skilled professionals are part of the cancer rehabilitation team. Your primary care provider or oncologist will help coordinate care with:

  • Lymphedema therapists, who assist patients experiencing swelling that can occur following surgery or radiation treatment.
  • Occupational therapists, assist individuals in improving self-care independence, social interaction, pain management, energy conservation, and cognitive skills.
  • Pelvic health therapists, that assist patients who are experiencing pelvic pain, weakness, constipation, or incontinence related to their cancer diagnosis.
  • Physical therapists, to assist individuals in returning to prior level of function; addressing balance endurance, strength, mobility, and pain management.
  • Speech therapists, who assist individuals in maintaining and improving the ability to speak clearly and eat/swallow safely. 

Cancer Survivor Rehabilitation Check List:

If you can check any of the below symptoms that are new since your diagnosis of cancer, you may benefit from seeing a physical or occupational therapist to improve your overall function and independence.

 Chemo brain (memory problems)
 Decreased movement
 Difficulty completing daily tasks
 Falls or near falls
 Numbness or tingling
 Trouble sleeping

Talk with your oncologist or primary care provider about rehabilitation after cancer.

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