Physical Therapy helps patients after Cancer treatments

February 12, 2013 1:59:30 PM PST
Cancer patients are now seeing the benefits from physical therapy after their treatments.

Nancy Libby is getting physical therapy not for an injury, but because a mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery caused chronic swelling and pain.

"Pain in my neck and shoulder and mobility issues," she said.

Carmen Baugh is also in physical therapy after radiation treatment for cancer left her debilitated for decades.

"I could not stand up straight, I could not hold my shoulders back, I could not walk," adds Carmen.

It took 30 years to figure out it was caused by scarring from the radiation. But after 5 months of rehabilitation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, you can see drastic improvement.

"I can stand up straight i can walk 3 miles and not be in pain it's just life changing," adds Carmen.

"Our main mission is to restore function and quality of life to cancer patients," said Dr. Michael Stubblefield.

Dr. Stubblefield is Chief of the Cancer rehabilitation program. He says there's a new push for cancer rehab for all patients, where physical therapists and doctors help prevent long term problems.

Many cancer medications cause muscle and joint pain and nerve damage.

"A number of the common chemotherapeutic medicines will cause numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, or outright pain in the hands and feet," adds Dr. Stubblefield.

That's all because most cancer treatments don't just kill the cancer. You also damage the healthy cells and tissue around it

That can lead to problems with strength and range of motion.

"So much of our culture is about being cancer free and surviving but there's a cost to it." adds Libby.

At Sloan-Kettering, they have new technology to help with balance-- and a simulated park with uneven surfaces to help with coordination and a kitchen to focus on everyday tasks.

There are very few official cancer rehab programs in the country. But you can look for a physical therapist who specializes in cancer--there's a website that can help.

LINK: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Rehabilitation Program

To locate a physical therapist that specializes in cancer go to the American Physical Therapy Association website and choose cancer as the specialty:

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