Chemotherapy, radiation and sometimes surgery are common treatments for
people diagnosed with cancer. But almost every cancer patient can benefit from
Cancer Rehabilitation at any point in their treatment, even when their disease is in remission.
Heptner Cancer Center Director Leigh Worsley is excited about the addition of Cancer Rehabilitation
to the care plan for the cancer patients they treat.
“As a three-year breast cancer survivor myself cancer rehabilitation
wasn’t something that was available, but I definitely am interested
in how it can help me with my arm range of motion, particularly after
riding my Harley.”
Two physical therapists, a physical therapy assistant and an occupational
therapist from CCMH Rehabilitation Services are now certified in Oncology
Rehabilitation. These four specialists are the only ones in the three
corners of the Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota and four of only seven
certified therapists in the State of Wyoming. Cancer rehab is different
from orthopedic physical therapy for injuries to knees or other joints
and can help with swelling, mobility and pain.
A 2013 study showed that up to 75% of breast cancer patients experienced
a decrease in their arm and shoulder range of motion and an increase in
pain within one week after surgery. Beginning rehab treatment two to three
weeks after breast surgery allows therapists to help the patient transition
from the body’s normal reaction of inflammation and the creation
of scar tissue with less discomfort and increased mobility. Therapy can
also help with lymphedema, a collection of fluid that causes swelling
in the arms and legs after cancer surgeries that remove or damage the
Every patient responds differently to cancer treatment, but most can experience
relief with therapy for their specific type of cancer. Chemotherapy often
causes a loss of balance due to a condition called neuropathy, which causes
symptoms of numbness, pins and needles, tingling or burning sensations
in the extremities. Cancer Rehab can help patients relearn how to go about
activities of daily living and even teach the nerves and brain the correct
gait or walking patterns.
Radiation treatment is precisely targeted but can cause adverse side effects
for patients too. Prostate cancer patients can benefit from pelvic therapy
to help with both incontinence and pelvic pain. Radiation therapy can
also cause skin irritation and Cancer Rehab can help with the discomfort
and with wound care if needed.
Speech and language therapy provided by a speech language pathologist can be beneficial for patients
with head and neck cancers. And CCH’s
orthotics and prosthetics services can custom design, fit and maintain undergarments, prosthesis
and compression sleeves for cancer patients of all ages.
Early intervention with rehab while patients are still undergoing treatment
lets patients and providers set goals for successful outcomes and begin
a relationship with their therapist for an additional support system.
Dr. Pauline Lerma, Medical Oncologist and
Stacey Hastreiter, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, feel that Oncology Rehab will provide a
missing component in their treatment of cancer patients at the Heptner
Cancer Rehabilitation services are covered by most insurances plans and
require a referral from a physician or advance practice provider. Referrals
can be made regardless of where the patient is in their cancer treatment phase.
Contact CCH Rehabilitation Services for more information on Oncology Rehabilitation
at 307.688.8000 or visit
Physical Therapist Tiffany Nielsen works with Nola Wallace to help increase
her range of motion.
Cancer Rehabilitation providers left to right: Katrina Tysdal, PTA; Janine
Albert, MOTR/L; Chelsea Jenner, PT, DPT; Tiffany Nielsen, PT, DPT