The treatment of cancer, as well as some cancers themselves, can cause discomfort, problems with movement, or other issues affecting your bones, muscles, and/or nerves. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our rehabilitation teams include professionals with experience helping people who were treated for cancer to regain strength, function, comfort, and independence that may have been lost or reduced during cancer treatment. Our goal is to help you get back to being able to do the activities you enjoy.
A Compassionate Team
Your physiatrist (Rehabilitation Medicine doctor) is a key member of your cancer care team, collaborating with your oncologist and other members of the rehabilitation team. He or she thoroughly evaluates your symptoms and their effects on your quality of life, and customizes a plan of care to meet your individual needs. Your physiatrist oversees your rehabilitation program, working with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and swallowing therapists, nurses, social workers, and others you need to support your recovery. We understand how frustrating it can be to be challenged by something that used to be easier for you. We take a holistic and empathetic approach to restoring your comfort and function.
Who We Treat
We care for anyone whose function has been affected by cancer or its treatment, including:
- Speech and swallowing difficulties resulting from radiation therapy and surgery for head and neck cancers, including mouth, tongue, throat, nasal, and larynx cancers.
- Lymphedema—swelling, usually in a limb, that often happens after surgery to remove lymph nodes during cancer surgery, such as underarm lymph nodes taken out during breast cancer surgery.
- Neuropathy — a “pins and needles” feeling or numbness, primarily in the hands and feet, that can be caused by certain chemotherapy drugs.
- Fatigue and weakness, often resulting from reduced activity during cancer therapy and sometimes from the treatments given for cancer.
- Pain in the bones, muscles, or joints resulting from cancer or its treatment.
- Cognitive difficulties such as memory or other thinking skills.
Our Cancer Rehabilitation Services
Your physiatrist will assess your needs and match you with the services that you would most benefit from, using a team-based approach to provide treatments such as:
- Medications and injections. Your physiatrist may prescribe medications or image-guided joint injections to relieve pain or discomfort in the bones, muscle, or nerves arising from cancer or its treatment.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help you get moving, reduce your pain, restore your function, and prevent disability. They are experts in the way the human body moves. Following a prescription from your doctor, they use a variety of techniques and exercises to help you get moving, reduce your pain, restore your function, and prevent disability. Your physical therapist will show you what to do during each session, but it is important for you to do “homework” exercises to fully benefit from the treatment.
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists help you relearn the skills of daily living, such as taking care of yourself and using supportive equipment. Their goal is to enable you to lead an independent, productive, and satisfying life. You will receive guidance on exercises you can do at home to ensure you receive the full benefit of your therapy.
- Speech and swallowing therapy. Speech-language pathologists have specialized training to help people improve speech production, voice, listening comprehension, word finding, and verbal expression. They also work with people who are having trouble swallowing ("dysphagia"). We offer expert evaluations and customized treatment, including recommendations about food textures, meal-time safety techniques, strategies to compensate for swallowing problems, and follow-up care.
- Nutritional counseling. Registered dietitians are part of your care team and can help you adopt a healthy diet that improves your strength and reduces symptoms such as inflammation.
Head and neck cancers and their treatment can have varied effects on your function and quality of life, such as problems with swallowing and speech and impaired shoulder movement that affects your ability to perform daily and leisure activities. NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center has dedicated rehabilitation services for people with head and neck cancers. Our therapists offer:
- Speech and swallowing rehabilitation, provided by speech-language pathologists.
- Occupational therapy to help you regain functional movement through stretching and strengthening in the outpatient clinic, and an exercise program you can continue at home.
- Occupational therapy — provided by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist — who will help you manage symptoms of head and neck swelling and decreased movement following surgery and/or radiation therapy.
- Occupational therapy for patients with facial nerve paralysis to restore facial movements through neuromuscular re-education exercises and soft tissue massage techniques, with the goal of improving the ability to eat, speak, and gain confidence in physical appearance.