Angelina Jolie just wrote about her mastectomies with breast implant reconstruction. As a mother with young children, she’ll need cancer rehabilitation in order to provide the love and caretaking that her kids depend on. Even lifting a small child or strapping her into a car seat is a challenge after this type of surgery. This means that you don’t need to have cancer to need cancer rehab. Women who elect to undergo preventative mastectomies should receive cancer rehabilitation services from a well-trained team of healthcare professionals. Despite the fact that research shows that physical and emotional outcomes are closely linked–the better someone feels physically after a mastectomy, the better she will likely feel emotionally–many people who need cancer rehab don’t get it at all (or only receive a little bit that doesn’t help them as much as it could if it was offered in a best practices team approach like in stroke care). Nearly 100 hospitals and cancer centers in the U.S. that have adopted the STAR Program® – a best practices model for cancer rehab—are currently participating in a campaign called Strength in Numbers that is designed to help decrease the gap between the need for these services and the delivery of them to patients. This 12 week “boot camp” campaign started in late April and will run through July 2013 to improve outcomes for anyone who has surgery or other treatments in a cancer center.
Julie Silver, MD