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Ask An Oncology Expert with Dr. Alan Kimmel

December 8, 2021
Dr. Alan Kimmel is the chair of Rehab Medicine at GBMC and has received comprehensive training as a lymphologist from Harvard Medical School. He has been the driving force behind GBMC's Lymphedema Center, which has become one of the nation's leading referral centers for complex Lymphedema patients.

On December 8, Dr. Kimmel spoke about the importance of rehabilitation in conjunction with cancer treatment in order for the patient to feel like themselves after treatment and answered questions on what his team can do for patients to ensure they return to full function, which often starts with a visit prior to surgery or chemotherapy treatment. Dr. Kimmel believes knowing a patient's full, comprehensive history and lifestyle is important to preemptively addressing any issues a patient may run into during or after treatment.

Three Takeaways

  1. Rehabilitation for cancer patients should begin before treatment. While starting treatment is the No. 1 focus, Dr. Kimmel suggests coming in for an evaluation prior to starting treatment or having surgery if possible. While rehab will not determine cancer treatment, it is important the rehab team considers a patient's lifestyle, activities they'd like to return to, as well as note previous physical injuries that might play a role in therapies. The main goal of the rehab program is for the patient to return to wellness.
  2. Neuropathy is a common disorder that can be caused by chemotherapies, and can be treated with medication and therapy. However, it is a nerve disorder that affects both cancer patients and non-cancer patients. Neuropathy is when the nerves in your extremities (fingers, toes, hands, feet) are hypersensitive and can experience a great deal of pain.
  3. Lymphedema is another disorder that can affect both cancer patients and non-cancer patients. Lymphedema is caused when cancer treatments damage the lymphatic system, which is the body's way of "emptying the garbage." If the lymph nodes are not properly functioning, that can lead to a build-up of fluid. Dr. Kimmel mentioned that since many improvements have been made for treating patients, the number of patients that suffer from lymphedema has decreased.

The GBMC Rehab Medicine Program works with multidisciplinary teams to help patients with their mental health as well. Specifically, GBMC's Oncology Support Program, which staffs social workers and provides resources for patients and families. Dr. Kimmel said it is important to have linear goals and focus on the small wins.

Oncology Support Services is just one area of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute that is 100% funded by philanthropy. To support oncology patients, please consider making a contribution to the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute.
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