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March 22, 2024/Cancer/Innovations

The Vital Role of Oncology Rehabilitation (Podcast)

New program provides prehabilitation and rehabilitation services to help patients with cancer maintain and regain function

Cleveland Clinic physiatrist

Oncology patients often face conditions that impact their function, ranging from neuropathic pain to lymphedema. A newly launched oncology rehabilitation program at Cleveland Clinic aims to help patients maintain and regain function during their diagnosis, treatment and recovery.


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“We treat the person, not the disease,” says Eileen Slavin, DO, a physiatrist specializing in oncology rehabilitation who leads the program. “So, we have to think about every person’s unique characteristics, unique challenges, specific requests – depending on their hobbies, their activities – and what they are facing.”

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Cancer Advances podcast, Dr. Slavin talks about the role of oncology prehabilitation and rehabilitation. She discusses:

  • The array of cancer diagnoses and disease side effects the program addresses
  • Patient selection factors and who benefits from prehabilitation and rehabilitation
  • Multidisciplinary teamwork between physiatrists, oncologists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians and others
  • Research into the survival benefit of oncology rehabilitation
  • The evolution of immunotherapy and what that means for treating its side effects

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Cancer Advances episodes at clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/cancer-advances or wherever you get your podcasts.

Excerpt from the podcast:

Podcast host Dale Shepard, MD, PhD: If we think about patient selection, who are the optimal people to have you see? What kind of patient selection factors do you think about?

Eileen Slavin, DO: Patients who have certain risk factors in comorbidities. So, someone who might have an elevated BMI, someone who might have chronic pain syndromes, a patient who has a diagnosis of diabetes who might have difficulty with healing. Patients who are certainly motivated and interested in doing prehab, of course, are good candidates.

Patient selection can be sort of tricky, but thinking about that patient that you might worry would slip through the cracks. And maybe that patient is already having a little bit of difficulty with their diagnosis, is already asking questions like, “Well, will I be able to get up and walk around? Will I have this type of pain? Will I lose function?” Those are also patients who would be good to refer to our service.


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