Lung Cancer: Rehabilitation

After treatment for lung cancer you may experience shortness of breath, as well as decreased endurance when performing simple activities such as walking or shopping. You may also find it difficult to keep your lungs clear of congestion.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, a team of physical and occupational therapists will work closely with your team of doctors to help you manage these side effects. Our Post-Operative Pulmonary Program is led by a multidisciplinary team of rehabilitation experts. The team includes physical therapists and respiratory therapists, as well as your nurses and medical team.

Physical Therapy after Surgery

Following surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s experienced physical therapists perform a comprehensive chest physical therapy evaluation that focuses on how your lungs sound, if you can take deep breaths, how well you can cough, and management of phlegm (thick mucous that lines the airway and lungs). In addition, we assess your mobility, including your ability to get out of bed and walk.

Based on the findings of the evaluation, you will receive an individualized treatment plan that addresses any challenges and outlines goals. This proactive approach to postoperative care helps to maximize your ability to breathe and get around, with the goal of allowing you to return home feeling steady and strong.

Breathing and Respiratory Therapy

Our respiratory therapists will work with you to assess your breathing and will coordinate with your doctor to provide treatments that will help you to breathe better. Following surgery you may receive oxygen therapy and use a type of inhaler called a nebulizer that turns liquid into a fine spray. Some patients also benefit from a respiratory treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure therapy.

If you are suffering from shortness of breath or fatigue, Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a monthly workshop called Breathing Easier that can help you to learn practical techniques to manage changes in stamina. You can also learn what to expect during recovery from treatment for lung cancer, and techniques for stress reduction and anxiety control. Family members of lung cancer survivors are also welcome to join this workshop, which is offered through our Resources for Life After Cancer program.

See Rehabilitation Services to learn more, including how to make an appointment.