Cancer Care Seeks to Take Patients Beyond Survival

The following excerpt is from a NY Times article on Cancer Care.

“As a growing number of Americans are learning, surviving cancer can mean slipping into a rabbit hole of long-term medical problems — from premature menopause and sexual dysfunction to more debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, like heart disease and even new cancers.”  Click here to view the full article.

I’ve worked with thousands of men and women recovering from breast, head and neck, and other related cancers for about 10 years.  Survival rates continue to rise, which is great.  However, that means more and more people need help with survivorship, or living a high quality life after treatment.  After a year of constant visits to doctors and high touch care, patients often feel abandoned when their treatment ends.  They are left with lots of fears and unanswered questions.

As an Occupational Therapist specializing in post cancer treatment, I really enjoy working with survivors.   And it is important that patients and the medical community are aware that help is available from qualified professionals.  It is frustrating to learn how many patients struggle for weeks, months, and even years before they find me. The fears and concerns I hear from survivors are often very similar.  The most common include:

  • Radiation recall which includes severe aches, pains and swelling
  • Finding the right balance between Eastern and Western medicine
  • Early menopause which leads to ongoing hot flashes and slowed metabolism
  • Capsular contractions (tightness and / or pulling) of breast implants
  • Lymphedema (swelling)

When I ask patients why they waited so long to see me, they often say their doctors told them, “you’ll have to live with it”, and just felt lucky to be alive.  The truth is that with a few sessions of Occupational Therapy, we can help with all of these issues, and more.   Depending on the issue, we can help reduce pain and strengthen muscles, through a variety of techniques including stretching, massage, exercise, diet, and proper nutrition, so that patients can return to a normal and productive lifestyle.

If you are a cancer survivor suffering from pain, fear, or just have a few questions, I would strongly encourage you to reach out to my office for help.  In the vast majority of cases, we can help you return to a more pain free, independent lifestyle.