Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Oncology Rehabilitation

oncology rehabilitation
"I appreciate that the patient-centered culture at CTCA allows us to focus on the ever-changing needs of our patients. The multidisciplinary team approach gives me the opportunity to communicate with other departments and providers to intervene and follow through when a patient has a need."

-Pam Veale, Physical Therapist

Our department

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.

Rehabilitation therapies

Throughout your cancer treatment, rehabilitation therapies are available to help you maintain your quality of life in several ways:

Physical therapy

As part of your cancer treatment, our physical therapists are available to help you design an individualized and creative exercise program that combines range-of-motion training with resistance exercises. These therapeutic exercises aim to reduce your fatigue and improve 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.

Occupational therapy

Our occupational therapists are available to 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 may result from cancer treatment. For patients preparing for surgery in the head and neck region, our speech pathologists are available to partner with you and your surgeon before and after the surgery in order to improve treatment results. Because each patient is unique, our speech pathology team will develop an individualized plan to meet your specific needs.

Massage therapy

Our massage therapists may 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, may help alleviate some of the side effects of cancer treatments, such as pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and balance and coordination problems.

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.

Additional services and programs

CTCA® offers a wide range of additional services and programs to promote a faster and more complete recovery for cancer patients receiving radiation therapy, surgery or drug-based treatments. These services include:

  • 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

The oncology rehabilitation team at Southwestern

The oncology rehabilitation team at CTCA at Southwestern Regional Medical Center (Southwestern) is staffed with an integrated team of caring and experienced physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), speech and language pathologists and massage therapists.

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.

Tai Chi

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.

Interactive metronome

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.

Massage therapies

The following are some of the massage therapy options available at Southwestern:

  • Traditional massage, a manual technique that aims to promote relaxation, reduce pain, 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, and 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, potentially helping to increase range of motion, improve circulation, reduce stiffness and decrease pain and tension
  • Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils that are inhaled and massaged (in a diluted form) into the skin, aiming to treat a variety of disorders, such as stress and anxiety, as well as a wide range of other physical ailments
  • Effleurage, a smooth, gliding stroke, generally used in a Swedish massage, which uses both hands to relax soft tissue, potentially helping to promote relaxation, improve breathing, reduce pain, 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, potentially helping 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, potentially helping to reduce stiffness, relieve pain and increase range of motion, flexibility and circulation
  • Acupressure, which 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, potentially helping to release tension and congestion, improve circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids, increase energy, normalize body functions and increase oxygen flow
  • 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.
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