By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
IT is believed by experts that when a cancer patient participates in rehabilitative exercises they have a better quality of life and can function at a higher level.
Cancer rehabilitation is a process that assists the cancer patient to obtain maximal physical, social, psychological and vocational functioning within the limits created by the disease and its resulting environment.
Traditionally, cancer is treated through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biological therapy, hormonal and angiogenesis. However, what is often missed in traditional cancer treatment is a proper wellness regime that focuses on diet, exercise and other activities.
Dr Kathryn DeSouza, a physiatrist and a cancer survivor, spoke at the recently held Doctors Hospital Lecture Series about cancer rehabilitation and wellness. She serves as a liaison between the oncology team and rehabilitative team at Doctors Hospital.
“We talked about the traditional forms of cancer treatment, but we did not hear anything about diet. It is really important when you are a cancer survivor that you analyse your diet because there are many things that can make your cancer worse; or if you have a history of cancer in your family, it may increase your predisposition,” she said.
“An example in breast cancer would be alcohol. There is a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer so if you are a survivor or have a history of breast cancer in your family then you should not drink alcohol at all or limit the alcohol intake to maybe one or two drinks a week,” she said.
Dr DeSouza said there is also possibly a link between dairy and soy products so people should consider going without it if they have breast cancer.
The team at the Doctors Hospital Rehab Centre offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services designed specifically to help cancer patients regain their strength, endurance and independence and also offer lymphedema massage.
At the Bahamas Medical Centre on Blake Road, in addition to the outpatient rehabilitation, patients are then encouraged to enrol in a specialised 12-week wellness programme that aims to get cancer patients healthy and moving with improved physical function, reduced fatigue and depression, and following a healthy lifestyle.
Dr DeSousza said cancer rehab important because although treatment is necessary, it has numerous negative effects. She said rehab can help to lessen the negative effects and improve the patient’s quality of life.
When deciding on rehabilitation there are certain things the cancer patient must consider. For instance, each patient should determine how their diet has changed since treatment; how the treatment affects their ability to work; what tasks or recreational activities they were able to do before treatment that they are unable to after, and how pain is affecting their ability to function.
Dr DeSouza said that some people with cancer have pre-existing, early and late-onset effects from the cancer or treatment, including heart disease, lung disease, pain, obesity, osteoporosis (thinning bones), cognitive defects, inactivity, diabetes, weakness and fatigue.
When developing a rehabilitative strategy all of those conditions must be accounted for, Dr DeSouza said.
“The healthcare team must develop rehabilitation goals within the limitations of the patient’s illness, environment, and social support. Patients, family members and significant others must be active participants in the rehabilitation process because they assist in goal setting,” she said.’
“Additionally, many patients with cancer had easily remediable but unrecognised rehabilitation problems which indicated the importance of interdisciplinary efforts to preserve patient function.”
The long-term positive impacts of cancer rehabilitation cannot be denied and can go a long way in improving a patient’s life.