Cancer Rehabilitation

The Swedish Cancer Institute, in collaboration with Swedish Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, offers a wide range of cancer rehabilitation services.

What Is Cancer Rehabilitation?

Cancer rehabilitation integrates medical management of cancer treatment-related side effects and a variety of exercise therapies. Research demonstrates that well designed exercise programs improve psychological and physical health for people living with cancer.

Benefits of Cancer Rehabilitation

Cancer rehabilitation reduces common side effects of cancer and its treatment, including fatigue, weakness, poor endurance, pain, nausea, anxiety, depression and loss of confidence. Exercise increases strength and endurance, restores confidence, and is an important part of rehabilitation. Cancer rehabilitation helps you return to the highest level of function and independence possible while improving physical, emotional and social well-being.

Read the transcript of this video.

Read more about the benefits of cancer rehabilitation.

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Listen to Cancer-Related Fatigue

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  Occupational Therapist, Ashleigh Blankenship explains home safety and provides easy tips to make your home safer when recovering from cancer.
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  Doctor of Physical Therapy, Laura Bouma talks about survivorship and cancer rehabilitation.
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  Doctor of Physical Therapy, Laura Bouma explains what energy conservation is and how it can help people with cancer.

Cancer Rehabilitation Services

Living Well While Living With Cancer (PDF)

Rehabilitation specialists and staff offer you:

  • Evaluation and medical management of cancer treatment-related side effects and pre-existing barriers to everyday activity.
  • An evaluation of your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, flexibility and activity goals. We use this information to develop a customized exercise program for you.
  • Physical and occupational therapy that helps address specific physical challenges resulting from cancer and its treatment. Examples include lymphedema, loss of motion, and skin tightness after surgery or radiation treatment.
  • Education and counseling about the medical facts of your cancer, how they undermine well-being and how you can relate to them in a way that is healing and reduces the impact they have on your life.
  • Enhanced energy, decreased fatigue, improved activity capacity and a sense of well-being while living with cancer.
  • For patients who have completed treatment and do not have complex rehabilitation issues requiring management by a cancer rehabilitation physician, we offer a stand-alone, physical therapist-directed exercise program.

Appointments & Referrals

Contact the Location most convenient for you.

Cancer Rehabilitation Referral Form (PDF)

Cancer Exercise Video Transcript

For these cancer survivors, the local YMCA "exercise and thrive' program is part of a new study that finds people who aren't cancer specialists, can be trained to help cancer patients. "What we learned from this study is that it is a very safe program." Fred Hutchinson cancer researcher, Karen Syrjala, studied 221 cancer survivors through 12 weeks of exercise. "We had improvements in muscle strength, in the sense of social support and mental well being, we had decreases in fatigue, improvement in blood pressure." 

Trainers like Kerri Schiller are taught to use low intensity, slow movement training to help cancer survivors avoid problems with inflammation caused by lymphedema, and damage to joints and muscles. "What really impressed me was how little it took for them to see results." "The biggest problem we see across all kinds of diagnoses is fatigue; it is the long-term, largest problem for the greatest proportion of people."

Julia Freilinger knows all about fatigue, the former triathlete is battling breast cancer that has spread to her bones. She's done with chemotherapy and now is exercising before surgery.  "I was tired when I came in."

David Zucker is a rehabilitation physician who designs exercise programs for cancer patients like Julia. "I call it training for treatment, and I set it up as if I am the coach and the physical therapists are the trainers." "You have one hundred trillion healthy cells in your body, you have more healthy cells in your body than you have or can possibly ever have cancer cells, they will respond to exercise."

Just as cancer survivors need exercise to regain strength, cancer patients need exercise to manage energy. "When a person exercises they can help reduce the downward pull of the treatment related fatigue, exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can create a counter force." "Definitely, muscles are coming back." 

Experts say exercising five days a week is best. Resting too much, even for people without cancer, can cause loss of strength and fitness. "A perfectly healthy person will lose between 1 and 3 percent of their total body strength in a single day at bed rest."

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