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RISE: Rehabilitation. Independence. Support. Empowerment.

RISE is Huntsman Cancer Institute's comprehensive cancer rehabilitation program.

Our Mission: We support and empower people who have cancer by helping them maximize their well-being and independence. We take a comprehensive, patient-centered approach to rehabilitation.

Diagram of the different teams in the cancer rehabilitation program

Outpatient Cancer Rehabilitation Services

Our cancer rehabilitation specialists work with you to help you achieve your physical well-being goals. Together, we work to maximize your independence. We recognize that cancer and its treatment can cause weakness, fatigue, pain, difficulty with memory and concentration, and other symptoms. We know it can be difficult to carry on with your daily activities during cancer treatment. Ways we can help include rehabilitation to increase your strength, increase your balance, improve your ability to carry out day-to-day activities, and help you return to a hobby, sport, or work.

Our cancer rehabilitation team includes specialists from many areas. We all collaborate on a personalized rehabilitation plan that focuses on your goals. Our patients have had many types of cancer and have seen us at any time in their care—from diagnosis to post-treatment survivorship to end of life. The following services may be offered at the main Huntsman Cancer Institute location and/or at our satellite locations.

For more information regarding additional therapy services, locations, and contact information, please visit University of Utah Therapy Services. Services may change over time.

Meet Our Team Members

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Physicians

Cancer Rehabilitation Medicine Physicians

Cancer rehabilitation physicians evaluate, diagnose, and manage symptoms that affect your ability to function, such as weakness and pain. We conduct a detailed medical history and ask questions to understand what a typical day is like for you. We perform a thorough musculoskeletal and neurological exam. We may order additional blood tests, imaging (x-ray, CT scan, MRI), and other medical exams to better understand your symptoms.

Based on your symptoms and goals, we create a comprehensive plan for you. Your plan might include the following strategies:

  • A referral to a therapy services
  • A home exercise prescription
  • Pain medications
  • An injection (joint or muscle trigger point)
  • An assistive device (cane, walker)
  • A brace (back brace, ankle brace)

Common Conditions

  • Weakness, pain, and/or stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Neuropathy
  • Problems with walking or balance
  • Lymphedema, swelling
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction: urgency, incontinence, trouble emptying
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Cognition: having a hard time thinking clearly or remembering things

Therapy Teams

Certified Lymphedema Therapists

A certified lymphedema therapist is typically either a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. Lymphedema is a specific type of swelling that may occur after lymph node surgery or radiation to the lymph nodes, although other conditions can also cause lymphedema. While there is no cure for this condition, lymphedema therapy can help you reduce and manage swelling. Lymphedema therapy involves compression bandages, manual lymphatic drainage (a type of light pressure massage), exercises, and in some cases, a device called a pneumatic compression device.

Lymphedema may occur in the:

  • Face and neck
  • Inside of the mouth and/or throat (intra-oral)
  • Arm, breast, and/or chest wall
  • Inner arm
  • Abdomen, pelvis, or genitals
  • Legs

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists

A pelvic floor therapist is a physical therapist with extra training and certification in pelvic floor health. The pelvic floor includes muscles and tissue that help control bowel, bladder and sexual function. Cancer can cause pelvic pain or tightness, such as in the groin, hips, buttocks, rectal, vaginal, or tailbone areas. This type of pain can occur after gynecologic, prostate, bladder and colorectal cancer treatment. Other types of cancers may also cause changes in pelvic health.

A pelvic floor therapist can help release any scar tissues from prior surgery and/or radiation therapy. The therapist will also help you re-train your pelvic floor muscles to contract and relax appropriately. Pelvic floor therapy can address these common conditions:

  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction, such as urgency, incontinence (leaking), trouble emptying
  • Pelvic pain
  • Dyspareunia, or pain with sexual intercourse

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist (OT) helps people engage in their daily activities. These therapists use a holistic approach to help patients address concerns that impact their everyday routines. Occupational therapy may include attending to self-care, managing symptoms (such as fatigue), improving motivation, or addressing thinking impairments. Our goal is to develop practical strategies to help you improve your daily activities and quality of life. Common conditions and interventions are:

  • Changes to memory and concentration that make it challenging for you to manage daily responsibilities (medications, finances, household duties, school, and work), sometimes called “chemo brain”
  • Modifying lifestyle routines to conserve your energy and allow you to carry out daily activities, despite challenges with fatigue, motivation, mood, and more
  • Weakness of the upper extremities and hands, which can impact your ability to grasp objects, dress, type, or use your phone
  • Evaluating your needs for adaptive equipment, technology or home modifications (such as a shower chair, modified utensils, technology adaptations for cell phone use, and driving)

Physical Therapy

Our Physical therapists (PT) work with cancer patients to improve their strength, coordination, balance and endurance. They can treat a variety of symptoms and conditions affecting muscles, joints, and your body overall. Common conditions and interventions we see in cancer patients are:

  • Difficulty with balance
  • Unsteady or altered walking pattern
  • Muscle or joint conditions (ex: osteoarthritis, steroid-associated muscle weakness, joint pain after chemotherapy or immunotherapy, back pain from spine metastases, skin and joint tightness after surgery and/or radiation therapy)
  • Generalized weakness, deconditioning and fatigue

Speech and Language Therapy: Swallow

Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) evaluates your ability to swallow. Cancer and its treatment can directly or indirectly affect the nerves and muscles you use when swallowing. You may also have a special tube through your nose or in your stomach to receive nutrition.

SLPs will prescribe specific exercises and diet recommendations. If part of your treatment for head and neck cancer requires removal of the voice box (larynx), our SLPs will review options for a tracheoesophageal prosthesis (TEP) to help you speak again. They can evaluate, fit, change, and troubleshoot your device to optimize your voice and swallowing. SLPs often assess and treat with:

  • Bedside swallow evaluation
  • Modified Barium Swallow Study (also known as a videofluoroscopic swallow study)
  • Exercises for your neck and throat muscles
  • Safe chewing and swallowing techniques

Speech and Language Therapy: Cognition

Changes in an individual’s ability to speak or communicate, as well as changes in understanding or learning new information, can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. It can alter their ability to work, go to school or lead a “normal” life. A cancer diagnosis and its treatment can be associated with changes in cognition, which is formally known as “cancer-related cognitive impairment.” You may have also heard of it as “chemo brain.”

Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) can identify which areas of cognition have been impacted and work with patients to improve their cognitive function. The most common cognitive challenges cancer patients face are:

  • Attention and/or concentration difficulties: Struggling to concentrate on a conversation, needing to read information multiple times, being unable to multi-task, losing your train of thought or having a short attention span (“spacing out”)
  • Problems finding words: Not being able to think of or speak specific words to clearly express your thoughts, feelings, and opinions in conversation
  • Memory problems: Difficulty learning new information and retrieving information you previously learned, such as understanding a new software program, remembering what was discussed during a doctor’s appointment, or remembering names, dates, and other important details
  • Processing information slowly: Slower reaction times, taking longer to process smaller amounts of information, and difficulty reading and following instructions, taking clear notes, understanding what your doctor is explaining, or keeping up with conversation
  • Cognitive fatigue: Managing the above symptoms may cause you to feel tired or drained and make it challenging to think or communicate clearly, causing you to feel irritable

Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) evaluate for the above symptoms and develop an individualized cognitive rehabilitation plan. This plan will typically have two components:

  • Restorative treatment: The goal is to improve and train the cognitive system to function in a wide range of activities
  • Compensatory treatment: Examples include memory notebooks or learning self-cuing strategies to help you carry out your daily activities despite your symptoms

POWER Exercise Specialists

POWER Program

The POWER (Personal Optimism with Exercise Recovery) Program is a supervised exercise program available to all Huntsman Cancer Institute patients. Regular physical exercise can improve symptoms across cancer diagnoses and can even improve survival rates in certain cancers.

The cancer rehabilitation specialists listed above work closely with the POWER program to help promote physical exercise among all patients, regardless of where they are along the cancer care continuum. You may receive a referral to the POWER program during or after rehabilitation therapy.

Additional Services

Wellness & Integrative Health Center

Our RISE Cancer Rehabilitation team may refer you to the Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness & Integrative Health Center during or after completion of your rehabilitation program. The center offers a number of services such as acupuncture, massage, music therapy and nutritional counseling. These services can improve your quality of life while you are undergoing cancer treatment and can help treatment-related side effects.

Learn more about the services offered by the Wellness & Integrative Health Center.

Neuropsychological Testing

You may need comprehensive “neuropsychological” testing, which is a multi-hour assessment with different tests for memory, concentration and problem-solving. These tests help pinpoint the specific area of cognition you are finding challenging. Examples of cognitive domains you may see in your official report include “perceptual motor function,” “language,” “executive function,” “learning and memory,” “complex attention,” and “social cognition.”

If you are interested in returning to work or starting a new job, you may need to undergo this official testing. Your oncology or rehabilitation team may also order this testing if your symptoms are more severe or persisting longer than expected and interfering with your day-to-day activities. This can be done at the University of Utah in the division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Psycho-Oncology and Symptom Support Services

Psychosocial support specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can help you manage symptoms relating to stress, anxiety, depression, and adjustment after a cancer diagnosis. Symptoms such as nausea, difficulty sleeping, and tumor-related pain can prevent you from carrying out your daily activities. We recognize that your mental well-being and the above symptoms can impact your daily function and your overall physical health.

We work closely with the Supportive Oncology and Survivorship team to ensure our patients have all of their needs met.

Patient Stories