After you’ve finished treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), you may wonder what comes next. As you recover from the side effects of your cancer and its treatments, this is when what’s known as follow-up care begins.
As NSCLC treatments like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy kill lung cancer cells, they also damage healthy cells and can lead to side effects.
Some physical side effects, like hair loss or nausea, are short-lived. Others, like nerve damage or hearing loss, stick around longer. Cancer can also leave behind lasting emotional effects like anxiety and depression.
Cancer rehabilitation can be a part of the recovery process. A cancer rehabilitation program can help with the physical and emotional effects of your treatment. It can also help you regain your strength, movement, and independence.
Cancer rehabilitation is a program that helps you recover from the physical, mental, and emotional changes brought on by cancer. It can help you transition back to your regular daily life and feel more like your old self.
Many specialists work together in a cancer rehabilitation program. They’ll design a program that fits your individual strengths and meets your cancer recovery goals. Rehab is an important part of follow-up care.
Cancer rehabilitation is a program that’s supervised by an oncologist or another specialist. It includes a variety of different services, including:
- Education about the effects of cancer and how to manage them.
- Physical therapy to help you regain lost strength and movement.
- Occupational therapy to maximize your energy and help you do everyday activities like dressing or bathing more easily.
- Respiratory therapy to help you breathe easier.
- Speech therapy to treat swallowing or speaking problems due to radiation or chemotherapy.
- Cognitive therapy to help you recover from “chemobrain,” the mental fuzziness that can set in after chemotherapy treatment.
- Nutrition counseling to help you get essential nutrients that help you become stronger and prevent your cancer from returning.
- Vocational counseling to ease the transition back to school or work after cancer treatment.
The first step is to figure out which types of services will benefit you most. The staff at the rehabilitation facility will ask about your symptoms and limitations to see where you need help the most. They may evaluate your strength or mobility, or watch as you perform daily activities like getting up from a chair.
Then they’ll tailor a plan to meet your individual needs and goals. That plan should outline the treatments you’ll get, which specialists you’ll work with, and the number of visits you’ll benefit from.
The person who is supervising your plan should check your progress along the way and adjust your plan as needed.
The goals of cancer rehabilitation are to treat cancer side effects, help you regain lost function, and facilitate your recovery. These programs help:
- reduce pain, swelling, and other side effects of cancer and its treatments
- improve your strength, endurance, balance, and range of motion
- boost your energy levels
- help you cope with anxiety, depression, and sexual issues
- improve thinking skills like learning and memory
- make it easier for you to perform daily activities such as climbing stairs, showering, and getting dressed
- help you transition back to work or school
A cancer rehabilitation program may be right for you if you’re dealing with symptoms like pain, weakness, and trouble thinking clearly, or if cancer has affected your daily life.
You don’t have to wait until your treatment is over to start cancer rehabilitation. In fact, starting these therapies early can head off problems altogether or prevent them from getting worse.
A rehabilitation professional can assess your strength, movement, and activity level going into the program. They’ll recommend ways to reduce or prevent NSCLC treatment side effects.
Once you’ve finished treatment, rehabilitation may be included in your survivorship plan. That’s the summary of follow-up care recommendations from your doctor.
Many cancer treatment centers and hospitals offer cancer rehabilitation programs. Some of these programs are outpatient, meaning you aren’t admitted. However, overnight programs are also available.
It’s important to choose a center that’s convenient to access from your home. A cancer rehabilitation program can last for several weeks or months. You may need to travel back and forth to the facility many times.
If you have difficulty leaving your home to attend a rehabilitation program, talk to your doctor. You may be eligible for in-home services such as physical and occupational therapy. Your doctor can make the right recommendations for you.
Ask whether your insurance will cover the cost of rehabilitation before you start. Some insurance plans will pay for cancer rehabilitation, but they might only cover a certain number of sessions. You may also be responsible for a copay.
The goal of a cancer rehabilitation program is to help you recover from cancer and its treatments and get back to your normal life. You should feel better leaving a rehab program than you did coming into it, but progress can take time.
To get the most out of your rehabilitation program, follow the advice of your care team. If any part of your therapy doesn’t work or you’re not experiencing any improvement, ask to make changes to your plan.