Cancer Care in the Gym

Physiotherapist Kaitlyn Young (left) assists Patient Scott on the exercise bike.

Patients are peddling on exercise bikes to increase their cardiovascular capacity, learning how to walk again on the parallel bars, and using the climbing stairs to build strength and stamina.

The patients in this gym have something in common – they are all undergoing physical rehabilitation as part of their cancer treatment.

The gym is an important part of the Musculoskeletal Oncology Rehabilitation Unit at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.

Moving toward recovery

“Many people don’t realize the importance of rehabilitation for cancer patients,” says Dr. David Harvey, Medical Director of the Cancer Rehabilitation Program. “We help patients with fatigue, weakness, pain, limited range of movement in joints, and challenges with functional activities like walking and dressing themselves.”

“Exercise benefits everyone, but cancer patients in particular.”

Different types of cancer can result in different kinds of physical deficits. For example, patients with breast cancer may experience limitations in shoulder movement and people with blood cancers may feel numbness in their feet.

Specialists working together

“Some of our cancer clinics are multidisciplinary in nature,” explains Dr. Harvey. “Rehabilitation physicians, oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation therapists, and many other disciplines collaborate to provide the best possible patient care.”

Patients stay in the inpatient ward when they are physically unable to return home. The overall goal of the program is to maximize abilities and help achieve a successful discharge back to a community setting, where patients can receive an appropriate level of ongoing care as needed.

Improving quality of life

“Exercise benefits everyone, but cancer patients in particular,” says Dr. Harvey. “Cancer patients who exercise are shown to experience fewer symptoms of the disease. There is also evidence that their cancer is less likely to return after remission.”

According to Dr. Harvey, rehabilitation services for cancer patients are more important than ever.

“As cancer treatment evolves and cancer patients live longer, the importance of these services continues to grow. Donor support of Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation provides much-needed funding, which is vital to helping us improve the quality of life for these patients.”