Transitioning from a cancer patient into a cancer survivor is perhaps one of the most joyous times in the life of anyone who has experienced the horrible illness. They have endured painful body aches, sleepless nights, harsh chemo treatments, and perhaps even overcame the fear of death. Cancer survivors lose their hair, bodily strength, and a good amount of weight, but never do they lose the will to survive.
Even after cancer survivors have overcome all of the above, another challenge begins after winning the fight against cancer. The rehabilitation process for cancer survivors has been proven to be somewhat of a challenge in and of itself. Although the cancer itself does not cause any long term effects, the treatment methods such as chemo therapy, radiation and medical surgery, often tend to leave cancer patients with long lasting complications that may require intense rehabilitation.
The physical impairments that cancer survivors experience usually ripen over time rather than occurring immediately after harmful treatments. Because of this, it is important to use rehabilitation as a prevention method whenever possible. Just like with cancer, the physical limitations that survivors develop are less damaging if they are detected and treated early on as opposed to later.
Physical therapists should ensure that rehabilitation efforts for cancer survivors are aimed at improving the mobility, functionality, and range of motion that may have been altered or damaged during the course of cancer treatments. Julie Silver, MD, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School developed the STAR Program. STAR, an acronym for Survivorship Training, and Rehabilitation, is a program that provides various resources, including training classes and workshops. These resources are made available to physical therapy practices, medical centers, hospitals, and cancer centers and are designed to promote and improve effective rehabilitation services for cancer survivors. The goal of the STAR program is to centralize rehabilitation techniques and services among a variety of professionals including doctors, physical therapists, and oncologists.
Unified training programs, such as STAR, enhance the quality of service in which patients receive. Not only do these programs provide training for different rehabilitation techniques, but they also teach physical therapists and other healthcare providers how to care for and cater to cancer survivors specifically. These tailored methods ease the process of rehabilitation and make the patients feel as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.
Dealing with cancer and all of its components from the harsh treatment options, to the numerous hospital visits, and even the loss of hair can be a trying time for those who suffer with it. While advances in medicine are working to make it easier to combat the illness, the long-term effects that the treatments cause should be kept in mind. Continued efforts towards the improvement of rehabilitation methods for cancer survivors are vital in ensuring the quality of their lives.
For more information about the cancer rehabilitation methods, the STAR program and the role that physical therapists play in the survivorship of cancer patients, click here