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An Introduction to Cancer and Rehabilitation

Cancer Rehabilitation – An Introduction

By Julie Silver, MD

Here at the Cancer Knowledge Network, we are excited to bring you information about cancer rehabilitation.  Cancer rehabilitation is an important part of the oncology care continuum.  This is an area of medicine that has dedicated healthcare professionals such as board certified physicians (called physiatrists) and licensed allied healthcare providers (e.g., physical/occupational/speech therapists, nurses, etc.).  Mental health professionals are also key members of the “rehabilitation team”.   Frequently, others may be included as well (e.g., yoga instructors, massage therapists, orthotists, etc.).

Ideally, cancer rehabilitation services should be offered to survivors when they have problems functioning.  Indeed, the rehabilitation professional’s code is “focus on function.”  Medically speaking, this means intervening when individuals are suffering from problems such as weakness, fatigue, pain, lymphedema, difficulty speaking or swallowing, decreased attention or memory, and a host of other issues.  Rehabilitation medicine interventions can significantly help survivors with a broad range of problems that they may be experiencing due to cancer and/or cancer treatments.  The goal is always to help them function at a higher level—with as little pain, fatigue and disability as possible—regardless of what type of cancer they have or had.

Cancer rehabilitation interventions have been studied fairly extensively, and Cancer Knowledge Network will be highlighting what is often called “evidence-based” medicine.  Part of insuring that cancer survivors receive the best possible care is to understand the research that has been done to date in the field of cancer rehabilitation.  The next step is applying this research to clinical practice in order to help cancer survivors have the best quality of life possible.