Cancer Rehabilitation Services
For questions, talk to someone from your care team or contact Fred Hutch Rehabilitation Medicine Services.
A cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to limit your life. Although cancer or cancer treatment might change your physical, emotional and mental abilities in ways that can make daily tasks harder, cancer rehabilitation can reduce or get rid of those side effects. Cancer Rehabilitation Services at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center can help you stay as independent as possible.
Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and other cancer therapies can cause changes in your body that make it harder to work, care for your family or do the activities that are important to you. Cancer rehabilitation deals with these changes by trying to reduce cancer therapy side effects like neuropathy, memory loss, depression, difficulty swallowing, weakness or lymphedema. We work to diagnose and treat these changes to help you keep your quality of life during and after cancer treatment.
If you are a Fred Hutch patient and would like to talk to a rehabilitation medicine provider, you can ask your Fred Hutch medical oncologist.
Once you have an appointment scheduled, the Cancer Rehabilitation scheduling team will give you instructions on where to go and how to check in.
Cancer rehabilitation medicine helps you stay as active as possible in work, family and other parts of your life. Rehabilitation medicine physicians prescribe medications, do joint and soft-tissue injections and can talk with you about exercises or adaptive equipment to help with the changes in your mobility. These steps can help you keep or improve your quality of life.
Anyone who is getting treatment at Fred Hutch can have rehabilitation services. To decide if you need rehabilitation therapy, ask yourself these questions:
The changes in how you feel once you begin treatment can start small. For example, you may not feel quite "with it'' and decide to cancel plans with friends. Your hands may be a little sore and swollen, so you decide not to write in your journal. You might decide not to work in the garden because your joints, back or neck are a little stiff. It’s important to notice these little changes early, because if you don’t do something about them, they can get much worse. The sooner you start rehabilitation services, the faster you can recover and keep doing the things you love to do.
If you are worried about your quality of life during and after cancer treatment, you can begin rehabilitation therapy before you start cancer treatment. This is called “prehabilitation.” A rehabilitation therapist will check your strength and mobility and ask questions to understand how active you were before treatment. At each visit, we will check your strength and ask you if there are any activities that are getting harder for you to do. By dealing with side effects or limitations when they happen, we can help you continue to enjoy your work, family, activities and everything else that is important to you.
At your first rehabilitation care appointment, you will meet with our physiatrist (rehabilitation medicine physician) or a physical therapist, who will give you a physical exam and do a pre-treatment assessment. This may involve asking you questions about your cancer treatment and your daily activities as well as checking your strength and flexibility. This will give us a baseline that your practitioners will use to measure progress or notice changes. During your first appointment, your practitioner may ask you to stretch, bend, push or pull as far as you are comfortable. These practitioners are movement experts and will not ask you to do anything that causes pain.
Based on your strength and flexibility, your practitioner will make a treatment plan, which lets you know how often you should have rehabilitation therapy, what exercises you should do at the appointment (and maybe at home, too), and when you should be checked again to measure any changes in strength or mobility.
After your first visit, you may feel tired later that day or the next day, and your muscles may be sore. If you are given exercises to do at home, it’s very important that you do them to help make sure your rehabilitation goes well.
“We work alongside patients throughout their cancer journey to help manage side effects that affect mobility, with the goal of optimizing quality of life.”
— Hanna Oh, MD, Medical Director, Cancer Rehabilitation Services
Because cancer therapy affects people in different ways, side effects will be different for each patient. Here are some of the most common side effects that rehabilitation medicine can help with:
If you are a current Fred Hutch patient and would like to be seen by one of our rehabilitation providers, please ask for a referral from your medical team.
This is different for each patient, and it is part of the treatment plan set up by your physiatrist or physical therapist at your first appointment. Therapy visits are often scheduled weekly, but that can change based on your treatment.
Yes. Based on several studies, cancer patients can safely do rehab therapy while going through treatment. Our therapists will keep your cancer treatment in mind and make changes to your rehab treatment plan if they are needed.
Most insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, provide benefits for rehabilitation services. To find out your specific coverage, you will need to ask your medical insurance company. Coverage and benefits depend on your medical insurance company and the plan you have. It is your responsibility to know what is covered by insurance and what you will be responsible for paying.
Because cancer patients have unique needs and situations, your physiatrists and therapists need to have specialized skills to provide the best evidence-based care. Our team has advanced training in lymphedema and oncology rehabilitation, and we focus completely on the rehabilitation needs of cancer patients. After you have started care with our team, we may be able to help you switch to rehab providers in your community for your ongoing needs.
Meet the caring, dedicated people who take care of your rehabilitation needs at Fred Hutch.
A lymphedema therapist tests and treats lymphedema, which is the buildup of fluid in your soft body tissues when your lymph system is damaged or blocked .
An occupational therapist helps improve the function, comfort and safety of patients living their everyday lives, including things like showering, cooking, commuting or caring for family.
Physiatrists are physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians who specialize in oncology. They diagnose and treat conditions involving nerves, muscle and bone that are caused by cancer or cancer treatment and can change how you move and function.
A physical therapist specializes in helping you improve or restore your mobility and helping you reduce or get rid of pain.
Prosthetists and orthotists specialize in fitting and making braces, splints and prostheses to help you recover from limb loss, neurologic injury or other mobility problems.
Your nurse manages your care with your physician. They also help with procedures and treatments. Nurses are resources for you and your caregiver. They can answer questions and help with a wide range of topics, like how to cope with side effects or how to get other services you need at Fred Hutch.
Speech pathologists specialize in helping patients who are having trouble communicating, swallowing or eating.
Your team coordinator will likely be one of the first people you meet when you come to Fred Hutch. They will schedule your first appointment and any recommended follow-up appointments for all rehabilitation services. They are also your main point of contact during business hours.