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At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) we want you to maintain quality of life during your cancer care. For the Oncology Rehabilitation Department at Southeastern Regional Medical Center (Southeastern), this means utilizing rehabilitation to make sure you have the strength and energy necessary to continue to perform the activities you enjoy both during and after treatment.
The department at Southeastern is staffed with an integrated team of caring and experienced physical therapists (PTs), speech and language pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists (OTs) and massage therapists (MTs). These experts work with you, and the rest of your care team, to mitigate any physical or functional side effects that may accompany cancer treatment, and also help you to achieve your highest level of physical and cognitive functioning.
Everyone comes into CTCA with a different level of physical ability, and therefore our Oncology Rehabilitation Department will create an individualized plan for your unique needs.
“Our goal is to improve your overall physical performance so that you can continue to enjoy participating in the activities that bring meaning to your life,” says Karen Barber, Director of Oncology Rehabilitation at Southeastern. “We want to keep you as strong as possible, and allow you to feel confident and comfortable that your body will support you throughout any activity, as well as help you maintain your strength, energy and independence.”
Rehabilitation can be your foundation for functioning before, during and after cancer treatment. It may help you in the following ways:
- Build strength and endurance
- Decrease fatigue
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- Maintain functional independence
- Improve physical well-being
Oncology Rehabilitation at Southeastern
Upon your arrival at Southeastern, you will meet with a rehabilitation therapist who will create your physical Wellness Story. This is a screening tool that involves an evaluation of your current functional status as well as your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs).
Should oncology rehabilitation be a part of your treatment plan, your therapist will use this Wellness Story, as well as recommendations from others in your Care Team, to develop a rehabilitation plan tailored to your specific needs. This plan will be goal-oriented, with well-defined outcomes to help improve your safety, independence and satisfaction with your life activities.
“We believe in addressing any physical concerns before they occur,” adds Barber. “That is why we create your Wellness Story from the beginning.”
Oncology Rehabilitation Programs & Therapies
Motion for Life
At Southeastern, the Oncology Rehabilitation Team follows the CTCA Motion for Life Program. This program is central to fitness and function and can help reduce stress, prevent fatigue and improve your quality of life. It consists of a patient-specific physical regimen that incorporates therapeutic activities to help you maintain the energy you need to participate in activities that are important to you, and to find fulfillment in your level of independence.
Our physical therapists work with you to restore physical function. You may focus on flexibility, strength or coordination training. The goal of physical therapy is to maintain the same daily routine you had before the cancer diagnosis. We want your quality of life to be the best it can be, and physical therapy is just one way our rehabilitation experts help you achieve your goals.
Speech and Language Pathology
This type of therapy may be especially useful for head and neck cancer patients. Sometimes cancer treatment to these areas can cause disruption of normal speech patterns or problems swallowing. We fight these side effects from the beginning at Southeastern by having you work with rehabilitation experts to restore your quality of life and normal body functions.
Occupational therapists teach you how to improve cognition and coordination needed for everyday activities. They will show you how to minimize limitations and enjoy quality living. Your occupational therapist will focus mainly on daily living activities, such as getting dressed and showering, while physical therapists work more with activities such as balance and walking.
Sometimes the surgical removal of lymph nodes around the underarm area may cause lymphedema. Particularly common in breast cancer patients, this condition can present discomfort and swelling due to a change in the way lymph fluids flow through the body. At Southeastern, we can teach you range-of-motion techniques to manage this condition and eliminate any discomfort.
The following are some of the manual and massage therapy options available at Southeastern:
- Traditional Massage – A manual technique which aims to promote relaxation, reduce pain, enhance immune response, accelerate wound healing, reduce edema and provide an overall sense of well-being.
- Myofascial Release – A form of bodywork that uses long stretching strokes to rebalance the body by releasing tension in the fascia/connective tissue. This technique may help to increase range of motion, improve circulation, reduce stiffness, decrease pain and tension, rejuvenate and free muscle tissue, and improve lymphatic flow.
- Soft Tissue Manipulation with Passive Stretching – A technique in which the manual therapist begins on the opposite side and creates a range of motion to discover any restrictions, then moves to the aggravated site and uses soft palpation to relieve the spasm. This may help to increase range of motion, improve circulation, reduce stiffness, and decrease pain and tension.
- Effleurage – A smooth, gliding stroke, generally used in a Swedish massage, which uses both hands to relax soft tissue. This may help to promote relaxation, improve breathing, reduce pain, enhance immune response, accelerate wound healing, reduce edema and provide a sense of well-being.
- Friction – The deepest of Swedish massage strokes, this technique involves deep, circular movements applied to soft tissue, causing the underlying layers of tissue to rub against each other and increase blood flow to the massaged area. This method may help to break down scar tissue, increase circulation and accelerate the healing of wounds and fractures.
- Trigger Point Therapy – A method that applies concentrated finger pressure to trigger points to break cycles of pain and dysfunction. This technique may help to reduce stiffness and relieve pain, as well as increase range of motion, flexibility and circulation.
- Acupressure – This method involves applying pressure to points on the body, such as the face and wrist, to relieve symptoms like stomach discomfort, pain and tingling, nausea and headaches. For example, the therapist may press directly under the nostrils to relieve hamstring pain, the wrist to alleviate nausea and hill of the hand to relieve headaches.
- Reflexology – A technique applied to the feet and hands to promote healing and to stimulate the body’s internal organs and muscle systems. This technique may help to release tension and congestion, improve circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids, increase energy, normalize body functions, increase oxygen flow and improve immune function.
- Reiki – A form of energy healing that is used to reduce stress, improve sleep, decrease depression and fear, and increase energy, peace and feelings of well-being.
Originally based on the ancient Chinese practices of acupuncture, auriculotherapy consists of an electrical stimulus which is applied to external ear points that correspond to locations on the body. Through stimulation of the auricle of the external ear, auriculotherapy aims to alleviate health conditions in other parts of the body.
This method aims to improve peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes pain, numbness, tingling or loss of reflexes in different parts of the body. The technique involves an electronic stimulation to the area of peripheral neuropathy, such as the hands or feet, to increase tactile sensory and awareness.
Continued Team Care
Throughout your cancer treatment, our rehabilitation team will work closely with you, your family and other members of your cancer care team to complement your traditional cancer treatments with rehabilitation therapies. The Oncology Rehabilitation Department receives the clinical support of Southeastern physicians, nurses, care managers, naturopaths, dietitians, mind-body therapists, patient relations and information management. This team approach provides you with comprehensive cancer care to heal your mind, body and soul.
Prior to leaving CTCA, your Oncology Rehabilitation Team will create a plan for you to follow for when you return home. Also, you are welcome to call your therapists at any time with questions or concerns. If necessary, your team can find a qualified professional in your area to assist with your additional rehabilitation needs while you’re at home.
The Oncology Rehabilitation Department is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.