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How Oncology Rehab Provides Relief for Cancer Patients


Sunday, November 27th, 2016

What is Cancer Rehabilitation?

Oncology patients have unique health needs throughout treatment and survivorship. But most people don’t realize that physical rehab can be a way to find relief from side effects during their cancer journey.

Physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists provide cancer rehab programs to help you increase strength and build endurance.

While oncologists manage your cancer treatment, rehab therapists can help relieve and treat:

  • Balance problems
  • Bone health concerns
  • Trouble with daily activities
  • Fatigue
  • Incontinence
  • Joint pain
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Pain
  • Swallowing problems
  • Swelling
  • Walking issues
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Physical Therapy for Cancer Patients

Physical therapists keep functional goals in mind while they assess your:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Endurance

Hallie Zeleznik, DPT, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, says:

“To reduce pain and fatigue, your physical therapist will work with you to design an exercise program to meet your unique needs. These exercises will help you return to a more active lifestyle.”

Physical therapists are also able to help you address other problems such as:

  • Balance and dizzy spells
  • Lymphedema
  • Pelvic pain
  • Incontinence

Learn more about oncology rehabilitation at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services or call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277).

Balance and dizziness

During and after cancer treatment, people commonly report issues with balance, dizziness, and walking.

Physical therapists can help you regain your confidence and ability to move around your home and community safely.

» Learn more about balance and vestibular rehab.

Lymphedema from cancer

Lymphedema, or swelling, may happen during or even long after cancer treatment. Swelling often occurs in the limbs, trunk, head, and neck.

Lymph vessel blockage or lymph node removal can cause this abnormal collection of fluid in the soft tissues. It can result in pain, tightness, or heaviness.

Physical therapists can help reduce swelling and teach you how to manage your condition.

Pelvic pain and incontinence

Scar tissue, muscle spasm, or weakness from cancer treatments can cause some people to have:

  • Internal or external pelvic pain
  • Sexual issues
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence

Physical therapists can help reduce these symptoms with exercises, gentle myofascial techniques, and education.

Cancer Patients and Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists will assess your individual strength, coordination, and endurance that currently hinders your daily routine.

They can design a plan to help you manage activities of daily living for your family, in your home, and at work.

RELATED: Integrative Oncology: A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care

Speech Therapy for Cancer Patients

After cancer treatment, our speech-language pathologists (SLPs) provide speech therapy to help you manage symptoms and side effects.

Cognition and speech

SLPs will assess and treat:

  • Memory lapses
  • Problems concentrating and multitasking
  • A sense of disorder
  • Slower thought processing
  • Trouble recalling common words

Swallowing issues and cancer

SLPs can help relieve symptoms of throat and chest cancer treatment, such as:

  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • A “wet, gurgly” voice
  • Unsafe swallowing patterns

Hallie Zeleznik, DPT, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, explains:

“By having an evaluation, we will be able to pinpoint problem areas and decide which types of therapy you’ll need.”

She says the goals of oncology rehab are to:

  • Reduce your pain during cancer treatment.
  • Help you get back to your normal daily routine and activities.
  • Make sure we’re meeting your nutrition and hydration needs.

Learn more about oncology rehabilitation at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services or call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277).

Center for Rehab Services

Centers for Rehab Services

Since 1986, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services (CRS) has provided one of the largest networks of community-based, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation services in western Pennsylvania. With more than 70 locations, CRS is a leading provider of physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, offering some of the latest treatments and specialized programs to ensure that each patient receives the highest quality care possible. Read More