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Cancer Rehabilitation: A new addition to cancer treatment

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Cancer Rehabilitation: A new addition to cancer treatment

Updated: 3/7/2023

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.

“As a breast cancer survivor, cancer rehabilitation wasn’t something that was available," Heptner Cancer Center Director Leigh Johnson has been excited about the addition of Cancer Rehabilitation to the care plan for patient treatment.

Physical therapists from CCH Rehabilitation Services are certified in Oncology Rehabilitation and certified in lymphedema. Cancer rehab is different from orthopedic physical therapy for injuries to knees or other joints and can help with swelling, mobility, and pain.

Studies have shown 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 lymph nodes.

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, needles, and 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 allows patients and providers to 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 provides a missing component in treatment of cancer patients at the Heptner Cancer Center.

Patients can seek treatment without a referral. Cancer Rehabilitation services are covered by most insurance plans and some plans may 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

  • Category: Campbell County Memorial Hospital, CCH News, CCMG News, CCMH News, Cancer Treatment, Home Health & Hospice, Rehabilitation Services