Helping Cancer Surviors Maximize Their Ability
We don’t just want our cancer patients to survive; we want them to thrive.
We are the only rehabilitation hospital in the region — and one of only a handful of institutions across the country — to offer a comprehensive, integrated approach to rehabilitation for adults and children fighting cancer.
Integrating rehabilitation with primary cancer treatment through an interdisciplinary team leads to better patient outcomes and greater patient ability — yet our unique approach remains relatively uncommon. In fact, none of the nation’s top cancer centers offers this level of expertise or rehabilitation care, or has made full integration of care the focus of the care-planning process.
We can help all cancer patients at any point in the disease continuum — soon after diagnosis in preparing for treatment or surgery, during chemotherapy or radiation, or a decade after diagnosis when additional loss of function or new impairment emerges.
Cancer survivorship rates are increasing due to tremendous progress in cancer research and acute care. Lagging behind, however, are equivalent rehabilitation advances that meet the needs of cancer survivors following ever-more aggressive treatments. The great advances in survival, while wonderful, have created a growing population of patients with neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and other organ-related impairments caused by the cancer itself, or by these new and more aggressive ways to fight it.
Some cancers directly affect the brain or bones, resulting in primary paralysis or limb loss. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery almost always cause debilitating fatigue, pain, loss of sensation, muscle weakness, joint dysfunction, limited mobility and great emotional strain. Other consequences from life-saving cancer treatment may include difficulty in swallowing, poor nutrition, breakdown of the skin, bowel/bladder or sexual dysfunction and lymphedema.
Surivors Thrive with World-Class Care
For the vast majority of these patients, we are able to coordinate care with the referring oncologists and surgeons, thus leveraging our proximity to and affiliation with the Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The profound advantage of this coordination is that patients can receive a range of primary cancer treatments concurrent with rehabilitation to maintain strength and functional ability.
Our clinicians and researchers address each patient’s unique needs based on the type of cancer, the organ system affected, the stage of disease, the cancer treatment given and the patient’s loss of function. For each cancer patient, we assemble a unique cancer rehabilitation team. At the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, we continue to take this integrated, patient-specific approach, regardless of the Innovation Center to which they are admitted. For example, we will continue to align the patient’s care plan with what is appropriate for the part of the body or organ most affected by his or her cancer or cancer treatment.
In this way, the Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center continues to leverage (and expand our leverage) of the world-class care and expertise provided in all of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s other Innovation Centers — Brain; Spinal Cord; Nerve, Muscle & Bone; and Pediatric Rehabilitation.