The treatments needed to address cancer can sometimes cause unpleasant side effects. You may experience these symptoms during treatment or even years later. Fortunately, rehabilitation can often help.
At SoutheastHEALTH, we have a team of occupational, physical and speech therapists with specific training in oncology rehabilitation. Talk with your provider or nurse navigator to see if you would benefit from a referral to therapy.
Here are some of the oncology rehabilitation services we offer.
Oncology Speech Therapy
Oncology speech therapy may be recommended if you plan to or have had head or neck radiation, or if you experience symptoms such as:
Difficulty swallowing. Swallowing problems may include coughing, choking or throat clearing when drinking or eating; a wet, gurgly sounding voice during or after meals; a sensation of food being stuck in the throat; discomfort when eating; or a loss of food or liquid from the nose when eating.
Trouble swallowing properly could also result in other issues like weight loss, fever or pneumonia.
Impaired thinking. Thinking problems caused by cancer treatment could include unusual lapses in memory, difficulty concentrating, trouble multitasking, difficulty learning new things, taking longer than usual to finish tasks, trouble remembering words or a general feeling of mental fogginess.
General Oncology Rehabilitation
You might benefit from general oncology rehabilitation with one of our physical or occupational therapists to improve your strength and endurance, or if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Decreased reach or range of motion/movement of arms or legs
- Scar tissue sensitivity (to touch or clothing) or tightness
- Tight bands in your armpit when reaching overhead
- Tightness in muscles surrounding the chest area
- Fatigue or reduced activity tolerance compared to before cancer treatment
- Inability to do your normal daily activities or your preferred leisure activities
- Unsteadiness, trouble balancing or falling (or being afraid you're going to fall)
- Generalized weakness, such as trouble walking, getting up from a chair or getting out of a vehicle
Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
A referral to a one of our oncology physical therapists may be warranted for pelvic floor rehab if you have any of the following symptoms:
Urinary incontinence or urinary urgency. Unwanted loss of bladder control, often due to weakness in the pelvic floor muscles or urinary urgency. Physical therapy strengthens the pelvic floor, improves bladder control and provides bladder retraining.
Bowel incontinence. Unwanted loss of bowel control, often due to weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. Physical therapy strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, improves bowel control and coordination of the pelvic
Constipation. Difficulty having a bowel movement or straining required to void. This is often due to poor coordination of the pelvic floor muscles. Physical therapy improves coordination of pelvic floor muscles, in addition to addressing bowel mechanics and lifestyle modifications.
Pelvic pain. Pain my show up as constant or occasional discomfort in the lower abdominal, vaginal, anal, or tailbone region, and may occur during activities such as prolonged sitting or intercourse. Muscle tension, scarring, radiation fibrosis, vaginal dryness and pelvic floor weakness can all contribute to pelvic pain. Physical therapy promotes soft tissue mobility, scar mobility and muscle coordination.
Pelvic organ prolapse. Descent of any pelvic organs into or outside the vaginal canal or opening. This condition is often associated with pelvic floor laxity and weakness. Physical therapy strengthens the pelvic floor and teaches functional strategies to minimize pelvic floor stress.
If you've had lymph nodes removed and/or radiation therapy and have never received education about the lifelong risk of lymphedema development, you may benefit from a referral to one of our physical or occupational therapists.
Lymphedema rehabilitation may also be appropriate if you have symptoms such as:
- Visible swelling in arms, breast/chest, armpit, face, neck, legs, or genitals
- Feelings of heaviness, tightness, fullness, pain or a sensitivity to touch or clothing
- Tighter fitting clothing items like rings, watches, bracelets, bras, shirt sleeves, pants, socks or shoes
Learn more about lymphedema rehabilitation at SoutheastHEALTH.
Bone Health/Osteoporosis Rehabilitation
A referral to one of our physical therapists who specialize in bone health/osteoporosis rehab may be appropriate if you have any of the following symptoms:
- A noticeable loss in height from your "tallest" measurement
- Increased curvature (bending forward) in your upper back
- History of a compression fracture in the spine
- A fracture that seemed to be caused by normal movement (not something traumatic like a major fall or car accident)
- A DEXA scan resulting in a T-score of -1 to -2.4 (osteopenia) or -2.5 or less (osteoporosis)