Cancer rehabilitation deserves STAR treatment

Harvard MD: Cancer recovery patients benefit from rehabilitative treatment to achieve higher functioning

"Cancer is unique in that many patients who undergo treatments do not receive rehabilitation interventions that help them to function at a higher level," says physiatrist Dr. Julie K. Silver, also assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

"For example, if someone has a stroke, he will likely receive physical therapy and occupational therapy. But, if that same person has cancer and undergoes surgery and chemotherapy, then he often won't be offered rehabilitation to help function at the highest possible level."

To resolve this problem, Dr. Silver has developed a set of certifications known as the STAR Program, which stands for Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation to "provide facilities and individual clinicians with tools and systematic, proven programs to deliver excellent oncology rehabilitation care."

She also founded Oncology Rehab Partners, which provides training for Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists in this very important component of cancer after-care. Dr. Silver has authored several books, including You Can Heal Yourself: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Recovery After Injury or Illness and After Cancer Treatment: Heal Better, Faster, Stronger.

Dr. Silver offers some advice for physical therapists and occupational therapists who want to make sure their patients receive the STAR treatment: "Referring patients to rehabilitation clinicians who are STAR-certified is very helpful. These are healthcare professionals, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapists who can help survivors."

What started out as a mission to provide rehabilitation services to patients has now become the national standard in after-cancer care, with mandated guidelines. The benefits of these changes are: fewer deaths in cancer survivors due to toxic treatments, as well as better outcomes in survivors who are able to function more independently and have a higher quality of life.

To learn more about the Dr. Silver's work, visit her website at