• Hands placed in a circle, holding various pink and red ribbons.

    Helping people with cancer live well from diagnosis through treatment and beyond

    Have you ever wondered about the world of cancer rehabilitation and the important role it plays in the lives of those impacted by cancer?

    Let's take a closer look at the life of a cancer rehabilitation therapist and the profound impact they make in the lives of patients.

    While upward of 90% of people impacted by cancer will experience adverse effects amenable to specialized rehab services, less than 10% receive the care they need. That’s why there is an increasing need for trained rehabilitation specialists to help people address the impacts of cancer and its treatment.

    Not only are there rewarding opportunities in working with this underserved population, but there are highly stimulating educational and professional growth possibilities as well.

    What does a cancer rehab therapist do?

    Cancer rehabilitation therapists play a vital role in the journey of those impacted by cancer. Through hands-on care and support, there is an opportunity to help individuals regain strength, increase mobility and regain autonomy amid sometimes overwhelming circumstances.

    It's an important job with unique challenges and many rewards. Cancer rehab therapists are there to support patients to be physically active and do what matters most. Being a cancer rehab therapist can provide immense satisfaction in knowing the effort is making an enormous impact in someone's life every single day.

    The goal of a cancer rehab therapist is to help those impacted by cancer proactively manage the adverse effects of the disease and its treatments. The ReVital program equips physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists with the knowledge and tools to comfortably and confidently treat the oncology population.

    ReVital certified therapists go through extensive training to understand how to manage:

    • Physical issues, such as pain, cancer fatigue, stiffness, etc.
    • Functional limitations, like being able to take care of yourself, dressing, grooming, etc.
    • Daily life challenges brought on by cancer and its treatment, like being yourself, enjoying time with friends/family and participating in life’s roles

    In cancer rehabilitation, every patient’s needs are unique and require a personalized treatment plan.

    Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

    “Cancer rehab therapists have a unique skill set to best help walk individuals through their journey with cancer, while constantly looking at the big picture. Instead of there being a linear trajectory or “classic” set of symptoms, we have to mold and adapt to whatever challenges each patient may be facing.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

    Beyond what’s clinically required of them, cancer rehab therapists often find themselves as one of the main pillars of support for their patients. It’s certainly one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

    Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

    “Practicing as a cancer rehab therapist is one of the most meaningful parts of my practice as a physical therapist. Being the source for this type of specialized support for the physical aspect of healing through cancer is so powerful. To be able to confidently say “here’s exactly what we need to do to get you prepared” or “that can get better, here’s how.” Having the experience and education to not only lead our patients to their maximal recovery but advocate and fight for it with them.” – Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

    Cancer rehab therapists offer crucial support to patients during what may be one of the most challenging moments of their lives. The goal is to provide education and attentive rehabilitative care throughout all points in the cancer journey to help people reach their goals.

    Working with people affected by cancer

    The experience of working with those impacted by cancer can be a truly transformative one. From survivors to their loved ones and caregivers, there stands to be tremendous personal growth in understanding the physical and emotional scars left behind by a diagnosis like cancer.

    Not only do cancer therapists have the opportunity to help ease many of these burdens, but they can also offer hope - empowering individuals to overcome everyday challenges.

    “This population is one of the most determined, motivated, and truly enjoyable to work with. Cancer rehab has made me re-learn my ‘why’ and showed me that we really have a role in treating those individuals facing cancer and cancer treatment. And for that, I am forever grateful.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

    There can be a sense of personal satisfaction in helping patients physically achieve something they thought might not be impossible. A key aspect of this is understanding how cancer may impact the patient’s needs and formulating a plan to address those needs. This isn’t as always as straightforward in cancer rehab as it might be in other specialties.

    “This patient population often has complex symptoms, yet often are told that what they are experiencing is “normal”. We frequently have to break through this and show patients that what they are dealing with, does not have to just be accepted as normal. We can help them get back to the things that matter most.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

    By working with this underserved population, cancer therapists have the chance to constantly challenge themselves and gain a deeper understanding of their changing impairments due to cancer and its treatment. More importantly, cancer therapists can make a significant impact on their lives with potential long-term benefits.

    Being an advocate for patients

    Cancer therapists have the important role of advocating for those affected by cancer. It's a sad reality that some health care providers may not fully recognize the advantages of cancer rehabilitation. But with their expertise, cancer therapists can help bridge this gap and provide vital support to those in need.

    “A big challenge is the lack of awareness of the need for PT/OT/SLP in the cancer care continuum. Not all oncologists/surgeons/radiation oncologists have had experience or training with specialized rehab professionals. It’s really important that we as rehab professionals commit to advocacy and education for the multidisciplinary team to ensure the best pathways and integration access for our patients.” – Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

    There are many times in this profession, however, when the best way to achieve optimal outcomes for patients is to become an advocate for cancer rehabilitation and ensure people know about the benefits it can provide.

    Making cancer rehab standard of care

    Founded in 2017, ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation is the first nationwide cancer rehabilitation program of its kind. ReVital was developed by Select Medical, a nationally renowned and community-based provider of post-acute care across multiple settings.

    Currently focused in the outpatient space, ReVital began with one goal in mind – to make cancer rehab the standard of care to help those impacted by cancer do what matters most.

    Since then, we’ve expanded the program across the country to more than 500 locations in 23 states. We’re still growing and working to bring our mission to life by leading the conversation and continuously innovating in order to enhance patient access, improve clinical outcomes, reduce system costs and support clinician well-being.

    This mission isn’t possible without the compassionate, caring clinicians behind us. That’s why we provide ReVital therapists with the opportunity to specialize in cancer rehabilitation at various levels, following a stepwise approach based on clinician goals and desires. Regardless of the chosen path, our clinicians want to help people impacted by cancer not just survive but to truly thrive.

    Improving quality of life with ReVital

    ReVital’s team of cancer rehab therapist are not just committing to help those impacted by cancer do what matters most – they’re dedicated to improving lives from the ground up. It’s about serving the needs of people currently facing the impacts of cancer and its treatment, and changing the circumstances for future individuals who face a cancer diagnosis.

    The ReVital program is built on the passion for making cancer rehab the standard of care.

    “ReVital creates the playbook for cancer rehab that was not present prior. ReVital is working to create a standard of care that all cancer rehab should strive for.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

    To find out more about what it’s like to work as a ReVital certified therapist, click here.

  • Maria doing physical therapy

    The support you need before, during and after cancer treatment

    Each cancer journey is unique, but every patient’s story has some inspiring threads: strength, determination, persistence and a sense of hope in the battle against cancer.

    Indeed, our patients inspire us every day.

    Maria’s story

    Maria Loftin was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in July 2020 and immediately thought of the challenges she would encounter. She suspected the problems chemotherapy could pose, and was especially fearful of surgery.

    How would surgery affect how she cared for her family?

    How would she continue to thrive in her career?

    “My initial reaction was one of fear--I did not know what lay ahead for me,” Maria said.

    Your story matters

    Most women with breast cancer have some form of surgery and radiation as part of their cancer treatment.

    Some may need chemotherapy before or after surgery.

    “When I was told I would need surgery, likely a double mastectomy, I was devastated. My biggest fear was a loss of independence.”

    The worries that come with a breast cancer diagnosis are undeniable. Recovery after breast cancer can be tough on the body and the mind. 

    Your worries are entirely valid.

    But, you’re not alone. You have options.

    “Would I be able to finish my dissertation work,” Maria wondered. “Would I ever be able to travel abroad to do research again? How would I be able to function day-to-day? Would my quality of life suffer after treatment? Would I be able to enjoy life with my husband and friends afterward? I had these worries on top of wondering if chemo would be successful and whether or not I would need radiation.”

    A breast cancer diagnosis does not mean you have to live with the constant worry of how the disease can impact your life, or how your body might hold you back from your normal life.

    Cancer rehabilitation can help

    A multi-disciplinary approach that includes cancer rehabilitation can make all the difference when it comes to improving quality of life.

    Ideally, patients will come out of their cancer treatment experience with the tools to live an even healthier life than before their diagnosis, and cancer rehabilitation can be a springboard toward that healthier life.

    In our latest study, the ReVital research team of Drs. Pergolotti and Wood examined the benefits and acceptability of cancer rehab services for more than 400 individuals with breast cancer with difficulty with their arm, neck and/or hands that impacted their daily activities. They found that cancer rehabilitation services offered by ReVital greatly improved patients’ ability to be independent and patients were overall satisfied with their care.

    Click here to read the full article from the ReVital research team.

    Outside of the ReVital world, the latest research from the National Institute for Health and Care Research shows that a cancer rehab, physical therapy-led exercise program soon after surgery led to better pain, shoulder function and quality of life.

    Read the full article to learn more.

    The support you need

    Patients like Maria are fortunate enough to have a support system in their life that advocates for a holistic recovery after breast cancer surgery. Others have to advocate for themselves.

    Everyone impacted by cancer deserves to return to what matters most after treatment, and cancer rehabilitation can help get them there.

    Maria working with her physical therapist

    “A week before my surgery is when the ReVital program entered my life and transformed my cancer experience,” Maria said. “Their expertise, compassion and positivity were immediately evident during our first meeting. I was nervous knowing I'd be having surgery in less than a week but my therapist’s positivity put me at ease.”

    When Maria was recommended to the ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation program, she knew there’d be a positive impact on her body and functionality. But she wasn’t aware of the impact the program would have on her mental health at the same time.

    Maria’s certified ReVital therapist, Sruti Manvi, P.T., DPT, CLT, was particular about setting clear and concise goals. Sruti encouraged Maria to focus on the tasks she could accomplish in steps to show clear improvement.

    “She asked me what I wanted to achieve with the ReVital program and I told her, ‘I was to be able to put my luggage in the overhead bin when I fly.’ Being able to travel by myself for my work is important to me and I was determined to still be able to do that after surgery.”

    Living well with ReVital

    Many people diagnosed with cancer simply don’t realize rehabilitation care is available to them before, during or after breast cancer treatment. It is our hope that stories like Maria’s will inspire others impacted by cancer to follow in her footsteps and advocate to live well beyond their diagnosis.

    “Feeling myself get stronger every week was so important to my psychological health,” Maria said. “I believe ReVital not only helps the body, but the mind as well. I truly believe I would not be at the level of physical ability I am at now if it weren’t for ReVital. I believe so much in the ReVital program because it gave me back my life.”

    To request an appointment to work with one of our clinical team members or ask us questions about treatment, fill out our short online form. A member of our team will connect with you.

  • Illustration of a man and woman holding their pelvic areas in discomfort.

    Why pelvic health is important for oncology rehabilitation

    While the pelvic floor is a mystery to many, it is important to your long-term health and quality of life.

    But for those who have received a cancer diagnosis, the type of cancer and treatment regime can affect pelvic floor function.

    But first, what is the pelvic floor?

    The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and tissue that form a sling to support the pelvic organs and spine. These muscles also help with control and coordination of bowel, bladder and sexual function.

    Muscle control — the ability to squeeze and relax pelvic floor muscles — is key here.

    Pelvic floor muscles contract to prevent bowel and bladder leakage. The muscles also relax to allow the bladder to empty completely when you void, empty the bowel without straining and have intimacy or pelvic exams without pain.

    Therapist showing a patient a model of the pelvic bowl.

    Pelvic floor muscles also support reproduction.

    In women, pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that:

    • Contract with orgasm.
    • Support the uterus.
    • Promote circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids

    With men, pelvic floor muscles help to:

    • Develop and maintain an erection.
    • Support the prostate.
    • Ejaculate during sex.
    • Promote circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids.
    • Prevent incontinence, or increased urgency.

    Now, put it all together and pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) describes bowel and bladder disorders, sexual disorders and chronic pelvic pain syndromes that affect the pelvic floor muscles’ inability to contract or relax appropriately.

    What are common symptoms of PFD?

    Unfortunately, pelvic health issues may go unrecognized and untreated. Indeed, people are often hesitant to share their concerns and, when they finally do, often wait several weeks or months to make an appointment with their doctor.

    Common symptoms of PFD may include:

    • Urgent or frequent urination or bowel movements. You may feel like you have to go right away or all the time. You may also fear leaving your home so that you can stay close to the bathroom. 
    • Hesitancy or painful urination. You may also feel you need to ‘force it out’ to go or you might stop and start many times.
    • Constipation, or pain during your bowel movements. Up to half of people suffering from long-term constipation may have pelvic health dysfunction.
    • Straining or pushing really hard to pass a bowel movement. You may also find yourself changing positions on the toilet.
    • Leaking stool or urine (incontinence).
    • Feeling pain in your lower back or hips with no other cause.
    • Feeling ongoing pain in your pelvic region, genitals, or rectum.

    If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it can feel as though your quality of life has diminished.

    But, there’s no need to accept this as your new normal.

    How cancer and the pelvic floor can go hand-in-hand.

    Many people with cancer simply aren’t told that treatment side effects can impact their pelvic floor. They may believe that their symptoms are a normal part of aging or are so grateful to be cancer-free that they don’t put two and two together.

    Women with gynecological cancers, including uterine (endometrial), ovarian, cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer, men with prostate and testicular cancer and anyone with bladder, rectal or anal cancer are most at risk for experiencing problems with PFD.

    For example, radiation for gynecological cancers, which are located in the pelvic region, may cause fibrosis, a hardening of tissue that may narrow or shorten the vaginal canal. This may cause generalized pelvic pain and pain with intercourse.

    Men who have radiation therapy for prostate cancer treatment, or who undergo a prostatectomy (the surgical removal of the prostate), may develop incontinence and/or erectile dysfunction.

    Several types of surgery may also affect the pelvic floor, including:

    • Tumor debulking to remove as much of a cancerous tumor as possible. 
    • Hysterectomy to remove the uterus.
    • Salpingo-oophorectomy to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

    Regardless of what caused your PFD, pelvic health therapy and cancer rehabilitation can help you feel your best.

    How can pelvic health therapy help?

    A pelvic floor specialist can help to develop a care plan to achieve the right mix of coordination, control and strength in the pelvic floor muscles.

    Pelvic health therapy, whether it’s physical therapy or occupational therapy, aims to restore function and reduce pain. A pelvic health therapist will give you an assessment of your muscle function, posture, breathing patterns, strength and flexibility of your spine, hip and abdominals to determine contributing factors of any pelvic health issues.

    Therapist helping a patient do pelvic floor exercises.

    Every person is different, so pelvic health therapy will look different for everyone. Some interventions you might experience can include:

    • Therapeutic manual (or hands-on) therapy. 
      • Trigger point release: Trigger points are sensitive areas in the muscle or connective tissue that are painful when pressed. Trigger points may cause pain in the pelvic area. Trigger point release is a hands-on technique to relieve chronic pain.
      • Dry needling: This form of treatment uses a dry needle - a needle without medicine - to deactivate trigger points in the muscle, help reduce scar tissue and promote healing in the body. Dry needling is not acupuncture.
      • Connective or scar tissue mobilization: This form of manual therapy aims to break up fibrosis related to cancer treatment that may be causing stiffness, desensitization or pain. Besides gently breaking up the tissue, this type of hands-on therapy helps to stretch and relax surrounding muscles building essential flexibility.
      • Myofascial release: This treatment style helps to lengthen and reduce tension in the connective tissue.
    • Biofeedback, which is commonly used to retrain pelvic floor muscles. This pain-free procedure uses special sensors to monitor pelvic floor muscles as you try to contract and relax them. The sensors provide feedback to you and your therapist about which specific muscles you need to strengthen to gain sensitivity or improve coordination of pelvic floor muscles.
    • Pelvic floor exercises. Your therapist will prescribe exercises to enhance coordination, control and function of the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles like the back, abdominals and hips.

    Talk to an oncology and pelvic health specialist today.

    If you or someone you love has been impacted by cancer that has led to any sort of pelvic health issues, ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation can help.

    Our compassionate clinicians are certified in oncology rehabilitation, and uniquely trained to treat pelvic health issues.

    To request an appointment to work with one of our clinical team members or ask us questions about treatment, fill out our short online form. A member of our team will connect with you to confirm your visit.

  • man lifting weights

    How PROhab Helps

    Being diagnosed with cancer can be scary and hard to understand. That’s why ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation developed Prospective Program or “PROhab,” to help inform patients about cancer, offer support early in the cancer journey and prepare for cancer treatment with eyes wide open.

    What to expect

    You’ll start with a PROhab evaluation to assess your level of physical activity and movement. Our therapists will want to know what movements matter to you: making meals, driving, dressing yourself or just hugging your kids.  They will also assess your strength, balance, mobility and other body functions that could be changed by cancer treatment. Once we learn more about you, together we discuss what to expect and determine your goals.

    As you progress through treatment, you will continue to have support from your ReVital therapist through regular monitoring and education. Any emerging physical or functional issues will be addressed before they become chronic. For example, some effects of cancer treatment can show up well after treatment has ended. ReVital therapists will give you the tools to spot issues so you can quickly report them to your care team. This approach leads to earlier identification of any issues that may arise, and treatment needed to keep you safely moving and have a better outcome.

    Your team

    We believe patients have better outcomes when they have access to an interdisciplinary cancer care team.

    Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and others – including physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists – all play a vital role in your care.

    ReVital cancer rehabilitation therapists have completed over 50 hours of special training on cancer -beyond what is required to be licensed. Through discussion with you, our therapists will provide you with activities and exercises tailored for your specific needs.

    The impact of PROhab

    The ReVital PROhab program can begin right after you have been diagnosed and help support you as long as needed. We’re here to help you:

    • Pull back the curtains on cancer
    • Maintain your ability to conduct daily activities
    • Help you look around corners with close monitoring
    • Enhance your strength
    • Increase your endurance

    While changes in your ability to conduct your daily activities will occur during cancer treatment, a proactive approach to rehabilitation helps you take control.