With Saint Alphonsus’ ongoing commitment to Excellence and the highest level of care for our cancer patients, we are excited and proud to share with you that Saint Alphonsus Cancer Care Centers and Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services (STARS) now offer the first certified cancer rehabilitation services in the western United States. STARS Cancer Rehabilitation qualifies us to provide the highest level of cancer rehabilitation services in the region.

STARS Cancer Rehabilitation 

STARS Cancer Rehabilitation is an evidence-based program of evaluation and treatment of cancer’s side effects. Our rehabilitation services are covered by health insurance and are offered to patients by a knowledgeable staff that is specially trained to work with survivors of all forms of cancer.

We are committed to helping you reach optimal recovery

Many patients undergoing cancer treatment may experience one or more of the following side effects: fatigue, pain, muscle weakness/imbalance, decreased bone density, numbness in hands or feet, lymphedema (swelling in the limbs), difficulty walking, difficulty sleeping, development of scar tissue, and incontinence. Fortunately, research has shown that rehabilitation (physical, occupational, speech and swallowing, and lymphedema therapy) during and after cancer treatment can help speed functional recovery, boost immune response, reduce fatigue, reduce risk of complications and improve the quality of life.

Physical Therapy

A Physical Therapist aims to improve your quality of life and independence by improving your ability to be active and comfortable. Physical Therapists evaluate functional abilities and will work with you to reduce pain, improve mobility, and restore physical function and performance. Depending on your condition, you may focus on reducing fatigue and pain and on increasing flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination and/or balance. Maintaining strength during cancer treatments helps to prevent or reduce the risk of complications, as well as to enhance quality of life. Physical Therapy helps patients and their caregivers regain a sense of hope and control over their health by teaching proper and safe exercise to rebuild function, endurance, and muscle and bone strength. Even a small amount of exercise can be beneficial to patients by decreasing anxiety and increasing sense of control.

Occupational Rehabilitation

Occupational Therapists address common side effects of cancer or its treatment including fatigue, pain, weakness, cognitive difficulties, anxiety or depression, and changes in self-esteem or self-image. This is accomplished through intervention aimed at restoring the ability to accomplish activities of daily living. Occupational Therapists also develop exercise programs to improve strength and mobility, modifying activities and teaching methods to conserve energy, or modifying environments in the workplace, home, or community.

Chemo Brain (Mental Fog and Memory Lapses)

What is causing these changes? Cancer survivors have reported memory lapses and changes in cognition function after heavy chemotherapy or cranial radiation. Many have difficulty with concentration, word retrieval, multitasking or learning new skills. Some misplace things and lose their sense of direction, forgetting where they parked the car. This is called “chemo brain”. Symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Trouble finding the right word
  • Difficulty with new learning
  • Difficulty managing daily activities

How does the STARS Cancer Rehabilitation Help? Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services (STARS) has trained physical therapists provide manual techniques often used to treat pain and tightness associated with surgery, lymphedema, and reconstructive surgery. Gentle exercises are prescribed to address fatigue and loss of range of motion. We want to help you maximize your ability to function and improve your overall quality of life.

Lymphedema

The primary goal of the Saint Alphonsus Lymphedema Rehabilitation Services is to improve the function of the lymphatic and circulatory systems of individuals living with lymphedema/edema issues. The goal for therapy is to provide individuals with knowledge and techniques for prevention, self-management, and lifestyle enhancement. Signs of Lymphedema

  • Swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Part of your body feels full or heavy
  • Skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red
  • New aching, tingling, or other discomfort in the area
  • Less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand, or wrist
  • Trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves
  • Your bra doesn’t fit the same
  • Your ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight, but you haven’t gained weight

Lymphedema Specialists – Connie Simpson, Barbara Keel, and Tonja Komrei provide therapy services at STARS – Liberty Location and STARS Meridian Health Plaza (MHP)

Fatigue – (Feeling Weak and Very Tired)

Why do I feel so tired? Chemotherapy can make you tired. So can other things like anemia, which is a low red blood cell count. Being depressed or in pain, taking certain medicines, or having trouble sleeping can also make you feel tired. Many cancer survivors experience persistent fatigue that can last months or even years. Extreme tiredness, despite a good night’s sleep, and difficulty starting or completing routine tasks can interfere with one’s work and social life and should not be ignored. Getting rest during the day and avoiding stress often helps How does the STARS Cancer Rehabilitation Program Help? Research has shown that exercise improves fatigue in cancer survivors. However, many patients are not ready for an exercise class and really need to first see a physical therapist for an appropriate exercise prescription that includes therapeutic exercise. A referral to a physical therapist trained in cancer rehabilitation can lessen anxiety and musculoskeletal pain as well. As I’m sure that you know, fatigue is often a “cluster symptom” that needs to be addressed simultaneously with pain and mood.

Speech and Swallowing Problems

Cancer and its treatment often affect structures and physiology that enable patients to talk, eat and hear. For example, head and neck cancer may affect the tongue, larynx (voice box) or the nerves that allow those organs to function. Often treatment impairs abilities in the short run that may deteriorate further over time. Radiation is associated with the formation of fibrosis (scarring).  If scarring occurs in the larynx it makes it difficult to move. Due to this problem, it may cause you to lose the ability to make sound and to protect the airway from aspiration (when food or saliva travels into the lungs). The inability of the larynx to move may cause additional swallowing problems. Often, lung tumors compress the nerve that makes vocal cords work, which causes vocal cord paralysis.

Symptoms

  • The need to swallow many times to clear food from the mouth and throat
  • Gurgly, wet-sounding voice after swallowing coughing or choking
  • Throat clearing while eating
  • Pain and dryness when swallowing

How does the STARS Cancer Rehabilitation Program Help? Our Speech and Swallowing Therapists are specially trained to treat swallowing and vocal problems associated with head and neck cancer treatment. During and after head and neck cancer treatment, many people develop difficulty with swallowing and speech. Our therapists work with patients to bring a comprehensive understanding of the anatomical changes in mouth and throat tissues caused by surgery and radiation therapy.