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Cancer rehabilitation

During and after your treatment, you may find physical therapy helpful. The Cancer Institute gives you access to therapists who can help you relieve symptoms and prevent future issues. If you have questions about how rehabilitation can help you, call the Salem Health Rehabilitation Center at 503-814-5986.

Surgical soreness

Your muscles may be sore and tight after surgery, making it painful to stay still during the radiation treatment. In therapy, we will work with you to reduce the discomfort and give you exercises that help you regain the strength and flexibility that you lost from the surgery.

Radiation position

During each radiation treatment, you will be asked to hold a position that lets the radiation technician focus the radiation on the cancer tumor.

For example, if you are receiving radiation to the chest, you may be required to stretch your arms over your head for an extended time. With treatments usually happening five days a week for as long as two months, it becomes very important for this position to feel comfortable and natural.

We’ll help you reach that goal with therapy tips and exercises to increase your flexibility, strength and endurance for the best possible treatment experience.

Range of motion

During radiation, all the cells and tissues along the path of the radiation receive some damage.

Skin usually becomes dry, flaky, red and tender (a lot like a sunburn). Under the skin, tissues react by forming scars, called fibrosis, and binding spots, called adhesions. This can make raising an arm or moving a leg difficult and painful.

In therapy sessions, we’ll give you the tools, exercises and education to help you overcome your limitations.


Extreme tiredness is one of the main side effects of chemotherapy. Other side effects could include nausea, hair loss, memory loss, dizziness, anemia, dry mouth, weight loss (or gain) and more.

Almost all chemotherapy drugs weaken your body’s immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. Mostly, they just make you feel exhausted.

You may be tempted to spend your recovery in bed or on the couch, but doing nothing when you are tired will ultimately make your recovery more difficult.

With that in mind, we’ll work with you to develop realistic goals and encourage you to walk, sit upright for a few minutes at a time or do mild exercises to build endurance based on your situation.

Lymphedema and breast cancer

Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissue (usually arms and hands) that causes swelling. In the case of breast cancer, lymphedema risk is increased by removal of lymph nodes during surgery and by radiation treatment to the area. Lymphedema can cause pain, limited range of motion, skin changes, numbness and an increased likelihood for infection.

The best way to manage lymphedema is with thoughtful skin care and moderate exercise. There is a small chance that severe overuse could cause or worsen lymphedema. If you experience arm swelling or increased pain after a particular activity, do not continue this activity until discussing it with your doctor or physical therapist. 

Managing Lymphedema