Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

The side effects of cancer treatment, including surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, often leave patients unable to resume their activities of daily living. The highly skilled occupational and physical therapists at Fox Chase Cancer Center work with patients to maximize recovery of physical functions for return to everyday activities at home and work.

Fox Chase also offers speech therapy and pain management guided by a physiatrist. Specialty rehabilitation programs include lymphedema, cancer fatigue and urinary incontinence.

Director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy promotes strength, range of motion, endurance and efficient and safe gait and balance. Deficits of these elements can impair functioning in your home and work activities, increase risk of falls and impact quality of life during and after cancer treatment. Education and training in self-management skills and strategies and development of home exercise programs can maximize independence, safety and activity level.

Treatment may include exercise, Activities of Daily Living (ADL) training, task-oriented training and strategies to reduce fluid retention. Physical Therapy can also help improve fatigue you may experience during or after your cancer treatment.

Physical therapy can assist with:

  • Mobility: walking safely and climbing steps
  • Physical abilities: educating patients on how to build and maintain strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, and coordination
  • Home exercise programs: designing specialized exercise programs to improve your function
  • Family training: teaching family members and caregivers on how to safely assist you during the therapeutic process
  • Lymphedema Treatment Program (Link): preventing and treating edema and lymphedema, including manual lymphatic drainage and custom garment fitting
  • Pain management and symptom control: coordinating visits with physiatrists who work with your treatment team to provide suitable pain control that may include hot and cold compresses and electrical stimulation
  • Equipment: helping patients identify and acquire equipment, including walkers, canes and wheelchairs

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy for cancer patients is designed to help you achieve your maximum level of independent living, both physically and psychologically. Cancer treatment can affect your ability to maintain your daily routines, including hygiene, careers and recreational or leisure activities. Occupational therapists work with you to overcome difficulty with fatigue, physical movement, strength and home living skills. Treatment may include exercise, massage, managing stress, Activities of Daily Living (ADL) training, perceptual training and neurological development. ADLs may include bathing, dressing or using assistive devices. Neurological or cognitive strategies include how to maintain memory, organization, reading and socializing skills.

Your activity level is often dependent on treatment and the stage of disease. Your occupational therapist may help you adapt your abilities so that you can enjoy a maximum level of independence and quality of life. Occupational therapy can assist with:

  • Self-care and home-care activities: helping with hygiene, bathing, dressing and managing your home
  • Fatigue management: learning strategies, such as energy conservation and relaxation management techniques, to manage the fatigue caused by cancer and its treatment; thus allowing you to do more of life’s important daily tasks  
  • Cognitive and visual rehabilitation: teaching you how to manage mild to severe problems in verbal and visual processing caused by cancer treatments
  • Equipment: fitting for wheelchairs, bathroom equipment, and devices to assist with dressing
  • Orthotics: acquiring splints to promote healing, positioning, rest or pain relief to arms and legs
  • Physical performance: improving your dexterity, coordination, strength and range of motion in arms and upper body
  • Social and emotional performance: improving coping strategies for managing the stress and anxiety that often accompany cancer treatments in performing daily roles such as parent, spouse, worker, student or volunteer

Speech Therapy

The speech pathologists help you correct, compensate and re-learn speech after cancer surgery or complications. A comprehensive program for the evaluation and treatment of swallowing difficulties is also offered. Preoperative education and counseling is provided for patients who undergo surgery, specifically those with head and neck cancers.

Lymphedema Therapy

Fox Chase Cancer Center's Lymphedema Treatment Program uses complete decongestive physiotherapy (CDP), a European program that has been used successfully to treat lymphedema patients for more than 30 years.

Pain and Palliative Care Program

There is no reason for patients to live with uncontrolled pain. Fox Chase Cancer Center physiatrists work closely with your treatment team, which may include Fox Chase’s Pain and Palliative Care Program and social work services. Their goal is to ensure you have adequate pain control and emotional support. With good follow-up and the wide range of techniques available at Fox Chase, there is no reason for patients to live with uncontrolled pain.