Physical Therapy and Cancer Recovery

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  • By Covenant Health
  • Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Galloway, PT
  • 5 minute read.

Patients benefit from a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment

“I feel better than I have felt in years!” Pam Vallelian is once again enjoying life with her husband Daniel after cancer care through Thompson Proton Center and Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville.

Jumping onto a moving freight train takes more than fast running. To be successful, a skilled assessment is necessary, plus an ability to aim high and hit the mark.

Jennifer Galloway, physical therapist at Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville, is certified in multiple clinical specialties, including oncology rehabilitation. She helps cancer patients while their recovery is in motion at full speed. With skilled assessment, she “aims high” in developing treatment plans to help cancer patients “hit the mark” in achieving their

best possible outcomes.

Jennifer Galloway,

Physical Therapist

“While we love to see patients upon initial diagnosis, we have many services to offer for patients who have already established a plan of care or those who have completed their care,” Galloway says.

Most people think of cancer treatment in terms of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but physical therapy can complement those treatments for better recovery. Other therapies for oncology rehabilitation might include speech and swallowing therapy, pelvic rehabilitation, and lymphedema treatment, which are all available at Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville.

Proton Therapy Meets Patient’s Needs

Pam Vallelian’s “freight train” experience was grappling with cancer in her jaw. “’Plasmacytoma to the right mandible’ is the medical way to say it,” she offers. “I’ve learned a lot on this journey.”

Vallelian was able to receive proton therapy, an advanced method for delivering radiation treatment for some types of cancer, at Thompson Proton Center, which is part of Covenant Health’s Thompson Cancer Survival Center. Proton therapy’s precise delivery of radiation helps spare healthy tissue and decrease treatment side effects.

Although she experienced ulcers on the right side of her mouth and says, “I had a scratchy throat for a few days,” Vallelian retained her ability to eat, drink, talk, and, perhaps most importantly, smile.] “Proton therapy was a godsend!” she says.

The Physical Therapy Connection

As part of a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment, Vallelian was connected to a registered dietitian who recommended physical therapy. Radiation to the jaw could mean problems in the neck, and her oncologist had expressed

concern about the impact of Vallelian’s inflamed lymph nodes.

“I’m a proactive person, too,” Vallelian says, “so if I could take some exercises to prevent something from happening, I was arguing for that.”

While physical therapy primarily served as a way to prevent potential side effects from radiation, it also addressed the patient’s needs in the moment.

“This was specialized oncological treatment for the neck and jaw,” says Galloway. “Many medical oncology treatments such

as chemotherapy and radiation also affect the entire patient rather than just the localized area, so we evaluate the entire

patient for any deficits or limitations.”

Galloway prescribed a set of exercises Vallelian could do, not only at the therapy center, but also at home for as long as

needed after her physical therapy sessions ended. Vallelian says the exercises seemed like a small thing but turned out to be something big.

“She gave me three very simple exercises for my neck and my jaw,” Vallelian says. “And I’m still doing those exercises!”

Galloway is now on the list of Vallelian’s “heroes” in her cancer story, alongside oncology experts and staff at the proton center. Vallelian counts herself blessed as she gets her life back on track after being derailed by cancer for a while.

“It’s amazing how much better I feel,” Vallelian says. “I feel better than I have felt in years!”

To learn more about how physical therapy can make a difference in cancer treatment, talk to your oncology team and call Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville at 865-531-5710.

To learn more about proton therapy, visit thompson-proton-center.

Don’t Wait to Get the Help You Need

Getting out in front of a potential problem can save time, trouble and money in the long run. Physical therapy empowers patients to regain mobility and strength and get back to life.

Covenant Health Therapy Center – West Knoxville has a team of highly trained and certified physical therapists equipped to address problems and pains that affect the quality of life and even get in the way of simple daily tasks. Common conditions are treated with expertise and compassion:

• Sports injuries

• Joint pain, neck and back pain

• Strains

• Sprains

• Muscle and tendon pain

• Foot and ankle pain

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

The therapy center is also home to occupational therapy and speech therapy services, and specialized treatments such as:

• Cancer rehabilitation

• Dry needling to target triggering pain points

• McKenzie Method for spine and musculoskeletal pain

• LSVT BIG and LOUD treatment for effects of Parkinson’s disease

• Treatment for dizziness and vertigo

Most insurance plans will cover self-referred physical therapy, and the therapy center can verify your coverage before your first session – so you can focus on your recovery. Most insurance plans will cover self-referred physical therapy, and the therapy center can verify your coverage before your first session – so you can focus on your recovery.

Watch more about Pam’s story here.

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About the Author

Covenant Health

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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