Cancer Care

Oncology rehabilitation

February 5, 2021 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Tamryn Vivian explains the benefits of oncology rehabilitation and why you don’t have to see your side effects as something you must live with. 

Cancer survival rates have increased dramatically over the past 50 years because of improved prevention and detection as well as treatment. But surviving cancer is only the first step towards regaining the life that was once lived. 

Many people emerge from treatment with unexpected side effects which can be difficult to face after being saved from the cancer itself. Some experience little pain and can get back to their usual life quickly, while others are completely halted in their tracks, debilitated by various ailments. 

Oncology rehabilitation aims to assist survivors to regain maximal physical, psychological, social and vocational functioning so that life is lived at its best. 

Oncology rehabilitation specialists can be from the occupational therapy or physiotherapy profession and have usually completed a certification in oncology rehabilitation. They may also have extra training in lymphoedema.

Where in the cancer journey should oncology rehabilitation begin?

The rehabilitation itself can be designed to meet the person at any stage in their cancer journey. It can be preventative, restorative, supportive or palliative. 

We often see a patient before surgery or treatment to answer any questions, relieve anxiety, perform manual lymph drainage to prepare the body for surgery and to let the patient know they belong to our care family. 

It’s accepted that during the months of chemo and radiation, there may be periods of immobility due to pain, which leads to muscle wasting, joint stiffness as well as fatigue. It’s imperative that oncology rehabilitation is provided at this stage to aid with maintaining strength as well as to decrease pain and swelling that is a major cause of discomfort and loss of sleep. 

Early referral can’t be stressed enough. If left untreated for long periods of time, it can progress and what started as a minor complaint can develop into problems that are difficult and expensive to treat. 

During the supportive phase of oncology rehabilitation, we encourage healthy living and often host ongoing exercise classes or special events that promote activity.

How can oncology rehabilitation help?

We know the effects of the cancer process or even the treatments themselves mean the patient is left with unpleasant side effects but all too often we hear of survivors being grateful to be alive. I don’t believe you should accept all the side effects as a gift. You deserve to maximise your body and possibly do even better than when the cancer diagnosis was given. 

Therapists can help in areas, such as pain, restricted range of motion and scar adhesions, as well as fatigue, nausea and depression. Chemo brain is a term we try and eradicate from our daily vocabulary as we work with cognitive rehabilitation strategies to help you. 

Oncology rehab therapists will address posture and positioning so that you can get a better night’s sleep and we provide phased exercise programmes to get you going. Even if you start with five minute sessions, that will fill up your tank and give you more energy to spend with your family. 

We understand that your body has changed and help you to accept and adopt a new, positive body image. 

An important part of our rehabilitation is lymphoedema management. We provide you with everything you need to know and help you understand your risks. 

In a nutshell

When referred for oncology rehabilitation, you will become a part of a family. Your team will help empower you in a time when cancer has taken so much. We will nurture, provide support when you need it, information at the right time and get you back on your feet with less pain and more energy. We even like you to keep in touch and join us on a lifetime journey of staying healthy and living your best life.

Tamryn Vivian

MEET THE EXPERT – Tamryn Vivian

Tamryn Vivian is an occupational therapist with a passion for oncology rehabilitation and lymphoedema. She works in private practice in Cape Town where the team specialises in advanced therapy methods and evidenced-based care.

Header image by Freepik

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