Rad/Chemo induced Cognitive impairment
As the survival rate for cancer patients increases, the need to understand neurocognitive deficits (NCDs) and how to provide treatment for your patients is becoming critical. Patients who have received radiation to the brain may experience long-term, adverse effects, including neurocognitive deficits NCD. These deficits, which can be attributed to the tumor itself or from localized brain radiation treatment, may impact the quality-of-life of cancer survivors. At Ribbon’s Therapy Clinic, we are dedicated to working with patients over the course of their treatment. Specifically, our Occupational Therapist can proactively monitor the cognitive skills of patients over the course of radiation treatment and work with patients to provide training and compensatory techniques that will allow the patient to remain independent with functional skills. To do this successfully, we recommend scheduling a consultation prior to radiation treatment, which will determine the patient’s baseline skills, a follow-up appointment upon completion of radiation therapy, and a follow up appointment every 6 months for 2 total years. This would allow the patient to be routinely assessed for early detection of cognitive deficits and for quick implementation of strategies to allow the patient to maximize the independence with daily activities and improve his/her quality of life.
Head and neck lymphedema
Lymphedema is very common among patients who have undergone head and neck surgery or radiation therapy. Up to 50% of patients will manifest some signs and symptoms of lymphedema after treatment for head and neck cancers. At Ribbons PT, as part of our evaluation process we take multiple facial and neck measurements to document severity of lymphedema and to show progress or improvement of the disease and make the patient and provider aware of any potential cases.
Radiation-induced damage can include muscle weakness and dysfunction and contribute to neuromuscular injury. Radiation fibrosis is a lifelong disorder which may addressed when identified and rehabilitated early enough by treatments consisting of physical and/or occupational therapy. Seeing a PT and/or OT specializing in oncology before radiation or early on in the course of radiation may assist with decreasing effects of/or prevent radiation fibrosis.
Lymph node radiation
If lymph nodes or lymph vessels have been damaged during radiation therapy, lymph fluid may not drain properly. If lymph fluid builds up, it can cause swelling in the area being treated. Lymphedema usually occurs in an arm or leg but can also affect other parts of the body. People who have had surgery followed by radiation therapy are more at risk. Lymphedema or swelling is sometimes just a temporary effect of radiation therapy, but it is usually ongoing. It can also be a late effect, appearing months or even years after treatment. Lymphedema is easier to manage if the condition is treated early. Our surveillance program monitors for early signs of lymphedema both pre- and post-radiation for a year.