Outpatient Rehabilitation for Cancer-Related Side Effects

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Cancer treatment can result in side effects that affect your ability to function at home, work, or in the community, or care for yourself and others. Lifespan offers rehabilitation services to address the needs of adults who have been diagnosed with cancer. 

Rehabilitation services focus on restoring and maintaining a patient’s highest possible level of functioning, independence, and quality of life from the time of diagnosis through the recovery period. We see patients who have been diagnosed and treated for all types of cancers, and who are experiencing a wide range of side effects and symptoms. 

Through a multidisciplinary, collaborative team approach, we coordinate and deliver services that address the preventive, restorative, supportive and palliative needs of adults affected by cancer.

Common Side Effects of Cancer and Cancer Treatment

Common cancer treatment side effects that can be addressed with rehabilitation include:

  • Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) including weakness and deconditioning
  • Pain and stiffness of joints and muscles
  • Breast cancer-related pain and restriction
  • Pelvic pain
  • Lymphedema (swelling of the arm/leg/trunk/head and neck)
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) including difficulty with walking and activities of daily living, loss of balance/falling and limited use of arms and hands
  • Swallowing and speech difficulty or vocal hoarseness

Our Rehabilitation Therapists

Each person referred to our program receives an individualized treatment plan. Our team of therapists also works closely with surgical oncologists, oncologists, social workers and other cancer care professionals.

  • Occupational therapists provide expertise in restoring upper body strength and function, managing activities of daily living and lifestyle modifications, as well as specialized services in lymphedema management and breast cancer rehab.

  • Physical therapists provide expertise in restoring overall body function and mobility, as well as specialized services in lymphedema management, pelvic floor rehab, breast cancer rehab and balance training.

  • Speech-language pathologists and audiologists provide expertise in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of oral motor and swallowing dysfunction, as well as specialized services in cognitive therapy.

Rehabilitation Therapy for the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Prior to a patient’s cancer treatment, we provide preoperative education to inform patients on what to expect throughout recovery, side effects they may experience, and how rehabilitation can help restore function and manage necessary lifestyle modifications. 

Each person referred to our program receives a treatment plan, individualized for their condition and side effects, that aims to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. 

We offer specialized treatment for some cancers that frequently require rehabilitation services.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatment, including surgery, reconstruction and radiation, can result in upper quadrant dysfunction (UQD). UQD is the restriction of arm and shoulder mobility, pain, lymphedema, and impaired strength and sensation. Our physical and occupational therapists provide preoperative and postoperative assessments of shoulder mobility and strength, arm girth measurements and functional mobility. Postoperative treatment for UQD includes education and instruction in lymphedema prevention, manual lymph drainage, and range of motion and progressive strengthening exercises.

Gynecological, Colorectal, Genitourinary Cancers

Some treatments, such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and medications for gynecological, colorectal or genitourinary cancers, can cause pelvic floor dysfunction. This can include bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, and pelvic pain. For pelvic-floor-related conditions it is likely that a comprehensive external and internal pelvic floor muscle examination will be conducted. Based on the results of the examination, your therapist will devise a specific plan of care to treat your condition, including evidence-based treatments like biofeedback, electrical stimulation, vaginal/rectal dilators, bladder retraining, manual therapy, specialized exercise programs, and behavioral management strategies. We work with your providers as a team to give you the best care possible.

Head and Neck Cancer

People treated for head and neck cancer often experience swallowing problems and difficulties with speech clarity. Radiation therapy can lead to soreness in the mouth and throat, reduced saliva, dry mouth, and limited movement. It may become more difficult to chew and swallow food and the desire to eat and drink may be reduced. Speech-language pathologists will recommend swallowing modifications and an appropriate diet, and provide education on oral hygiene and secretion management. They will also teach modifications in oral movements to maximize post-surgical and post-radiation speech intelligibility.

Learn more about outpatient rehabilitation services at Lifespan »