Specialty Program

Cancer Rehab

Specialty Program

Cancer Rehab

Specialty Program

Cancer Rehab

Specialty Program

Cancer Rehab

Specialty Program

Cancer Rehab

We can help with your recovery from the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, so you can get back to life.

Cancer is being diagnosed at an increasingly alarming rate, but fortunately more people are surviving cancer than ever before. Cancer and its treatment can have many side effects.

Our cancer rehabilitation program can help you optimize your physical and mental well-being with proven therapeutic methods such as exercise, manual therapy, massage therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture and other specialized services.

Rehab can help with:

  • Cancer-related fatigue
  • Pain
  • "Chemo brain" (brain fog)
  • Radiation fibrosis syndrome
  • Scar tissue management
  • Lymphedema
  • Frozen shoulder and other movement restrictions
  • Axillary web syndrome
  • Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy

It helps you feel less tired.

Fatigue is a big hurdle when you have cancer. And feeling tired can be compounded by stress, depression and decreased activity. It might sound counter-intuitive, but moderate exercise is actually the best treatment for cancer-related fatigue. We’ll start you off slowly with a regular routine that’s adapted to your limitations, and gradually increase your level of effort.

It can reduce the symptoms of "chemo brain."

Cancer-related brain fog is a common side effect of treatment. It can cause memory loss, confusion, difficulty with multi-tasking and learning new things, slow thought processes and difficulties finding words. Our approach to rehab is holistic: we use encourage exercise, good nutrition, and emotional and spiritual support to help you feel better. We also work on improving your brain fitness, giving you the mental tools you need to help you think more clearly.

It can help with numbness in the hands and feet.

Numbness (neuropathy) can result from chemotherapy. If it interferes with your hand dexterity, balance or everyday functioning, cancer rehabilitation can help. Treatment methods include acupuncture, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and balance retraining.

It can help prevent/manage lymphedema.

Lymphedema is swelling caused by an altered lymphatic system – it can cause an achy heaviness in the affected limb that results from accumulated lymphatic fluid. Treatment can include manual lymph drainage (MLD) as well as exercises and breathing techniques. It’s important to manage signs and symptoms early; lymphedema can often be avoided with education, physiotherapy and compression garments.

It can improve and resolve axillary web syndrome.

Axillary web syndrome is thought to be caused by a disruption in the lymphatic network following cancer surgery and radiation. Symptoms can include reduced shoulder movement, a pulling feeling in your arm and armpit, and a difference in tension on both arms. Manual therapy is a very effective approach, usually improving symptoms significantly within a few treatments.

It can help with incontinence and pelvic pain.

Radiation to the pelvis can cause vaginal dryness and stenosis (narrowing and shortening of the vagina) that can lead to pain with penetration. It can also cause muscle wasting and weakness in the pelvic floor, which can lead to urinary/fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Our specially trained pelvic health physiotherapists can:

  • Teach you to strengthen pelvic floor muscles to improve bowel/bladder control or pelvic organ prolapse
  • Teach you how to relax and stretch tight pelvic floor muscles to make intercourse less painful
  • Show you techniques to improve the health of your vaginal tissues

For prostate cancer patients, a pelvic health physiotherapist can help with:

  • Post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence
  • Bowel dysfunction including chronic constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction including erectile dysfunction
  • Pre and post-operative prostate surgery
  • Chronic pelvic pain

What will happen at my first appointment?

You’ll start with an assessment with one of our physiotherapists and/or occupational therapists. You may also do a functional status assessment with one of our kinesiologists, testing for your ability to do the important activities that are required for you to work or to resume your daily routines. Our rehab team will then prepare an individualized treatment plan based on your needs.

What should I wear?

Dress in running shoes and comfortable clothing that you can easily move around in.

What should I bring?

For your first appointment, please bring any relevant medical information and an up-to-date list of your medications. Once your treatment begins, you may wish to bring a water bottle and your own exercise mat.

How long are the visits?

The initial assessment takes about an hour, and subsequent treatment sessions will vary in length depending on your needs; your therapist will let you know after your first visit.

Studies show that physical activity during and after cancer treatment has a significant effect on patient outcomes. In fact, there’s a proven relationship between higher physical activity levels and lower mortality in breast cancer, colon and prostate cancer survivors.

In addition, with proper post-treatment screening and physiotherapy in the early stages, survivors are more likely to be able to resume their usual activities and minimize psychological stress.

Our physiotherapists, kinesiologists and athletic therapists can get you started on a safe, structured path to increased physical activity, regardless of your current limitations. Ask your medical team if you would benefit from cancer rehabilitation.

Yes. Fatigue is a big problem for cancer survivors. We can help you overcome fatigue through rehab techniques like:

  • Exercise
  • Energy conservation strategies
  • Education

Research indicates that exercise is the best treatment for reducing cancer related fatigue. But since it is difficult to exercise when experiencing exhaustion after cancer treatment, it is important to start slowly, and follow a regular routine that includes gradual increase.

By performing moderate exercise the body’s stamina often eroded by cancer treatment can be restored, and your quality of life can be improved.

There are individual precautions that your therapist can make you aware of, modifying your exercise routine and safely adapting to your limitations. Exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance, flexibility, not to mention its impact on improving your mood.

Yes. There are many ways to manage pain that do not involve more medications. We offer various therapeutic techniques that can help reduce cancer-related pain.

  • Acupuncture
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
  • At-home exercises
  • Breathing techniques
  • Therapeutic massage

What does treatment involve?

We base your care on your specific condition, but your treatment may include:

  • Exercise
  • Job-specific work conditioning
  • Manual therapy techniques
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Progressive goal attainment planning
  • Lymphedema education and management
  • Stress reduction and coping strategies
  • Techniques to reduce dizziness or vertigo

Who will be treating me?

Our clinics typically have physiotherapists, occupational therapists, kinesiologists and massage therapists available. They consult with one another and with the doctors and specialists involved with your care (with your permission). Other health care professionals such as psychologists and dieticians may also be involved.

When should patients be referred for Cancer Rehabilitation?

Cancer Rehab is appropriate at all stages of the cancer journey.

  • Individualized and safely prescribed exercise has proven valuable during and after cancer treatment, as well as in the palliative stages.
  • Return to work conditioning would be most appropriate when you are medically stable.
  • There is value in “pre-habilitation” too, in that we can often improve your baseline functional level making you better prepared for the cancer treatment, allowing you to bounce back faster afterwards.
  • Regular screening of all cancer survivors and early referral to rehabilitation allows us to recognize and treat cancer-related physical impairments before they negatively impact daily function and increase emotional distress.

Why hasn't my physician suggested cancer rehab?

Cancer rehab is a fairly new concept in Canada. Although the benefits are well supported in current research, many physicians are focused more on curing the cancer and less on a patient’s functional recovery following treatment. Years ago we didn’t know that cardiac patients would benefit from rehab and exercise, but now it’s a mainstream practise. We anticipate that rehab will become a critical part of cancer recovery in much the same way.

Ask your physician if they think cancer rehab would benefit you. Although we don’t require a doctor’s referral, we prefer to work in communication with the rest of your health care team.

Are you trained to monitor for the medical problems that cancer patients might have?

The cancer journey is a difficult one and there are many issues and medical complications that can arise along the way. We carefully monitor for potential problems such as bony metastasis, cardiac autonomic insufficiency, balance issues, fever and fluctuating blood lab values that might indicate problems such as anemia or neutropenia. We will report any medical red flags to you and your doctor immediately and facilitate the appropriate medical follow-up.

Who pays for cancer rehabilitation?

Disability insurance will often pay for cancer rehab, if returning to work is the goal. Ask your adjuster if they would consider this for you. Extended health care can also help with funding; check your plan to see if you’re covered. In some of our facilities there is limited government funding for cancer rehabilitation.

I’m not sure cancer rehabilitation is right for me. Who can I talk to?

Please contact us cancerrehab@lifemark.ca, or call or visit your local cancer rehab clinic. You can also speak to your medical team to discuss whether cancer rehabilitation is appropriate for you.