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Cancer Rehabilitation: Helping Patients Feel Better During and After Cancer Treatment

The STAR Program is used by some of the best cancer centers in the country, including here at ValleyCare Health System. It uses a multidisciplinary approach to help patients recover their strength and energy.

ValleyCare Health System has launched a new program for cancer survivors that will help them feel better and improve their quality of life.

By providing the best, most personalized care possible, ValleyCare is always striving to improve our patients’ experience and to assist in their quest for wellness. Because of this strong commitment to our patients, we have teamed up with Oncology Rehab Partners to bring the STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) Program® to ValleyCare and our community.

The STAR Program is a nationally recognized cancer survivorship program that focuses on helping patients feel well, both physically and emotionally. The STAR Program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach in which caregivers from different specialties team up to help patients increase strength and energy, alleviate pain and improve daily function and well-being.

Approach

Cancer treatment can be very toxic and often causes significant pain, fatigue and sometimes disability for survivors. Our goal is to minimize these side effects and to encourage patients to have the best quality of life possible.

For example, three of the most common diagnoses that cause problems for cancer survivors are cancer-related fatigue, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and mild cognitive impairment.
  • Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is one of the most common and disabling problems cancer survivors face. Research shows that exercise is an excellent intervention for CRF. However, it is important that patients with impairments be referred to one-on-one physical therapy rather than group exercise so their specific impairments can be addressed, much like stroke patients.
  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is also a common problem for many survivors. To help keep CIPN from becoming an impairment or disability, physical and occupational therapy can help decrease that potential when therapists focus on gait, balance and footwear, for example. In addition, physiatrists also play an important role in managing chronic pain through interventions or medication.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or “chemo brain,” as many survivors call it, can be helped by using various strategies to assist with focus, concentration, memory and organizational skills. Research shows that appropriate referrals for speech and occupational therapy, as well as physiatry and mental health therapy, have been enormously helpful for patients with MCI.

STAR Program at ValleyCare

ValleyCare already offers a wide range of cancer support services, including lymphedema therapy, nutrition support, a nurse navigator, weekly support groups, the ValleyCare Health Library and Ryan Comer Cancer Resource Center and educational seminars.

The STAR Program further enhances these services with physical, occupational and speech therapy, along with targeted exercise, pain management, balance and gait training and emotional support.

Clinical staff has undergone extensive training in oncology rehabilitation to further develop their expertise in the area of cancer care. With this training, they are STAR Program certified. This certification includes protocols that hospital teams can use to provide optimal clinical care, as well as track outcomes.

Development of the Program

The STAR Program is being utilized in some of the best cancer centers in the country, including Johns Hopkins. STAR Program certification was developed by Julie Silver, MD, and her team of clinicians. Dr. Silver is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, a cancer survivor and author of several books on cancer rehabilitation.

Dr. Silver developed the STAR Program after going through cancer treatment herself, realizing that she desperately needed rehabilitation in order to return to her former level of function. She now says, “Survivorship services, including oncology rehabilitation, are imperative to cancer care.”

The development of the STAR Program was also prompted by an eye-opening Institute of Medicine report published in 2005 that highlighted the many deficits in survivorship care and recommended that survivorship become a distinct phase of cancer care. As such, most of the survivorship services integrated in the STAR Program are reimbursable by health insurance providers.

STAR Program rehabilitation services are offered on an outpatient basis in the ValleyCare Dublin and Livermore facilities. Physician referral is required. For more information about STAR Program cancer rehabilitation, please call 925-734-3313 or visit www.valleycare.com/STAR.
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