Rehabilitation helps you recover during and after cancer treatment. It can help you gain control over many parts of your life and stay as independent and productive as possible.
People diagnosed with and treated for cancer often need some type of rehabilitation to help them:
- adapt to changes in their body or the way they think (called cognitive changes)
- be as physically active and independent as possible
- return to their daily activities
- deal with emotional, social or work issues
Your healthcare team may include the following professionals. They specialize in different areas and can help you recover in different ways.
Occupational therapists help you prevent and live with illness, injury and disability. They assess, treat and help you manage physical, mental and cognitive problems related to the cancer or cancer treatment. They are trained to assess the layout of your home, school or workplace and suggest ways to improve your mobility and help you cope with daily activities.
Depending on the type of cancer you have and how it is treated, you may need to have an ostomy. An ostomy is a surgical procedure to create a stoma, or artificial opening, between an organ or structure and the outside of the body. For example, a tracheostomy creates an opening in the trachea, or windpipe, through the neck.
An ostomy therapist helps you learn to live with and care for an ostomy.
A physiotherapist helps you get back to your normal levels of mobility and physical activity, while preventing further problems. Physiotherapy is important if you have lost muscle tone, have trouble with balance, have a prosthesis or need to use canes or other assistive devices. A physiotherapist is also called a physical therapist, and physiotherapy can be called physical therapy.
A recreational therapist can help you learn how to manage stress, anxiety and depression through games, exercise, arts, crafts and music.
Rehabilitation nurses help people with a disability or injury recover their physical function. They can help you be more independent and lessen possible complications after cancer treatment. They can also help you adjust to changes in your environment or lifestyle.
Social worker or psychologist
A social worker or psychologist talks with you and your family about emotional, mental and social health. They can talk to you about your experiences and help you develop coping plans to help you deal with different situations. They can provide or refer you to support services like counselling, support groups and financial help.
Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping people cope with problems that affect communication. They provide assessment, diagnosis and advice about managing and treating problems related to speech, language, swallowing, voice and sensory awareness, and cognitive aspects related to communication. For example, after treatment for cancer that affects the head, mouth or neck, they can help you speak, swallow and regain strength and flexibility in your face and mouth muscles.
Spiritual care worker
Spiritual care workers offer support and prayer according to your spiritual and religious needs.
Vocational rehabilitation counsellor
A vocational rehabilitation counsellor can help people recovering from cancer return to their former job or workplace or help them find work that they can do if they have functional changes from cancer or the treatment. A vocational rehabilitation counsellor can also provide ideas to support those who are still working during and after treatment or help cancer survivors explore work that may be more rewarding to them.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
Support from someone who has ‘been there’
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.