Gwinnett Medical Center breast cancer patient Nita Woods, second from left, poses for a photo with hospital staff, from left, Allison Grayson, Jenna Migliore and GMC-affiliated surgeon Dr. Julie McGill. (Special Photo)
At first, Nita Woods was overwhelmed with the idea of undergoing rehabilitation therapy in addition to treatment for breast cancer.
It was just one more thing to deal with on top of so many other things.
But now, having completed rehab therapy for lymphedema — swelling that occurred in her left arm following a lumpectomy and the removal of seven lymph nodes — the 56-year-old Dacula resident said her quality of life is much improved.
Woods, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2012, started rehab three to four months ago, working with staff at Gwinnett Medical Center who designed different exercises for her to increase the range of motion in her left arm. Staff also showed her different massages she could do to decrease the swelling.
While Gwinnett Medical Center has always offered rehabilitation services to cancer patients, on Sept. 16, the center’s rehabilitation program received STAR Program Certification, a designation that uniquely qualifies the medical center to offer oncology rehabilitation services.
“We have provided oncology rehab for a number of years but have raised the bar with certification,” said Katherine Michaud, director of oncology services for Gwinnett Medical.
Dr. Kevin Peacock, a Gwinnett Medical Center-affiliated oncologist and hematologist, said studies show patients undergoing cancer treatment who also receive rehabilitation therapy are in better physical condition at the end of that therapy.
“It’s becoming more common, I think, that the idea of cancer treatment has come full circle in terms of rehab,” he said. “It really has to do with cancer being a multidisciplinary treatment approach … mind, body and soul.”
Peacock said Woods is a prime example of a breast cancer patient who has benefited from rehabilitation therapy.
“Since therapy,” Woods said, “I’ve had no more pain in my left arm, my range of motion is back to normal and I have naturally less stress because I can control that swelling. It was really one of the best things they could have done to help me along with my recovery process.”