The rehabilitation therapists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) help you build strength and endurance, regain independence, reduce stress and maintain the energy you need to participate in activities that are important to you.
Our oncology rehabilitation team includes licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists and massage therapists.
Throughout your cancer treatment, rehabilitation therapies can help you maintain your quality of life in several ways:
As part of your cancer treatment, our physical therapists can help you design an individualized and creative exercise program that combines range-of-motion training with resistance exercises. These therapeutic exercises aim to minimize your fatigue and optimize your physical function, safety and well-being. For patients who experience challenges with swallowing following radiation treatment, our physical therapists and speech pathologists work together, striving to improve quality of life, including offering therapy to support hydration and nutrition.
Our occupational therapists can help you with daily living activities that are important to your routine and quality of life, such as dressing, showering and eating. Some patients experience issues with thinking and memory during treatment for cancer. Our cognitive training program combines occupational therapy and speech therapy to help patients improve attention, focus, memory, problem-solving skills and ability to complete daily tasks.
Speech and language pathology
Many cancer patients benefit from speech and language pathology. Therapists address problems such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), loss of voice and cognitive changes that can result from cancer treatment. For patients preparing for surgery in the head and neck region, our speech pathologists will partner with you and your surgeon before and after the surgery in order to optimize treatment results. Because each patient is unique, our speech pathology team will develop an individualized plan to meet your specific needs.
Our massage therapists can help reduce your cancer-related pain and improve your quality of life during your treatment.
This painless, non-invasive form of oncology rehabilitation, which involves stimulation of the auricle of the external ear, can help alleviate some of the side effects of cancer treatments, such as pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and balance and coordination problems.
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.
Lymphedema prevention and treatment
Lymphedema is a condition in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling. Our oncology rehabilitation team combines gentle range-of-motion exercises and massage to either prevent lymphedema, or reduce the swelling associated with this condition. For some patients, we may also recommend surgical options for the treatment of lymphedema after non-surgical therapeutic approaches have been exhausted.
CTCA® offers a wide range of additional services/programs to promote a faster and more complete recovery for cancer patients receiving radiation therapy, surgery or drug-based treatments, including:
- Programs to address incontinence
- Weight management/movement program
- Support for sexual health
- Support for fatigue and sleep disturbances
- Prehabilitation to prepare your body for cancer before treatment
Additional programs at Southwestern
Motion for Life
The Motion for Life Program 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.
The oncology rehabilitation team at Southwestern regularly leads Tai Chi classes for our patients. Tai Chi is a low-impact, health-promoting exercise that has been shown to help reduce cancer-related fatigue in some patients. An ancient Chinese tradition that was first developed as a method for self-defense, Tai Chi today is a popular exercise form that involves slow, focused movements and stretches. Because it requires mindfulness, it involves both the mind and body, decreasing fatigue, increasing energy levels and lowering stress and anxiety, especially when it is practiced regularly (three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each) at a low to moderate level. But make sure to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Using headphones and special hand and foot sensors, interactive metronome is a simple series of computer-generated “sounds” and feedback to measure a rhythmic beat and response to the millisecond. The goal is to increase concentration and improve balance, function, and cognition in a few short minutes and a few treatment sessions.
The following are some of the massage therapy options available at Southwestern:
- 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.
- Stone therapy – A massage technique in which warmed stones are placed on points on the body and used as massage tools to promote deep muscle and tissue relaxation, alleviate stress, release toxins, relieve pain, and improve circulation.
- 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.
- Aromatherapy – Uses essential oils, which are inhaled and massaged (in a diluted form) into the skin. This technique aims to treat a variety of disorders, such as stress and anxiety, as well as a wide range of other physical ailments. For instance, aromatherapy may help to reduce hypertension, treat skin conditions (e.g., burns), reduce chronic pain and muscle aches, aid in digestion, and treat respiratory infections.
- 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, decrease scar tissue, 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, relieve pain, and 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.