Cancer rehabilitation is a form of therapy that addresses the effects of cancer and its treatments. Jessica Engle, DO, an experienced physiatrist with Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation who specializes in cancer rehabilitation, provides compassionate care to patients at Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center in Rockville. Dr. Engle answers some common questions about the benefits of cancer rehabilitation.

What is cancer rehabilitation?

Dr. Engle: Cancer treatment takes a physical toll on many patients, impacting several areas of their lives. Cancer rehabilitation helps patients regain strength and physical functions affected by cancer treatment. Specialized techniques used in cancer rehabilitation build endurance and improve movement, balance and posture. This therapy also promotes scar-tissue reduction.

How does cancer rehabilitation benefit patients?

Dr. Engle: Cancer patients can benefit from incorporating rehabilitation throughout their care journey by working with trained professionals whose scope of practice includes rehab diagnoses and treatments specific to cancer. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation often cause extreme fatigue and muscle weakness. Cancer rehabilitation counteracts these conditions and can reduce pain and numbness in the hands and feet.


Who can benefit from cancer rehabilitation?

Dr. Engle: Rehabilitation can be especially helpful for patients with brain tumors, who must work through cognitive issues, pain management and difficulty walking. Also, rehab assists patients who have spinal cord compression, who can experience bowel and bladder issues and whose family members may need extra training as caretakers. For breast cancer patients, rehabilitation experts can help manage post-mastectomy syndrome or pain. Finally, for patients with limb loss or those prone to fractures from treatment, cancer rehabilitation can help improve physical health.


What self-care techniques do you recommend for cancer patients?

Dr. Engle: Exercise and healthy habits can be very empowering at every stage of cancer care. Also, creating goals — even goals as simple as sitting in a chair for a short time each day or participating in a favorite hobby or activity — can have a big impact. Finally, I encourage those experiencing cancer to find ways to reduce stress. It is important to have something to look forward to. Remember that cancer does not have to be the “new normal.”

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