I am a cancer rehabilitation specialist, or physiatrist, a physician who specializes in enhancing and restoring patients’ functional abilities and quality of life. I have special expertise in evaluating and treating the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and functional complications that patients sometimes develop as a result of cancer and cancer treatments. These complications can include acute and chronic pain, weakness, muscle spasms, neuropathy, myopathy, deconditioning, contractures, spasticity, plegia, spinal cord injury, lymphedema, amputation, and gait disorders. I see patients who have any type of cancer at any stage of their disease.
My particular interest is identifying and treating the long-term complications of cancer survivors. I commonly see patients who have been cured of their cancers for many years but now suffer from any of a variety of complications, including what I term the “radiation fibrosis syndrome.” Symptoms of this syndrome include weakness and painful spasms of the muscles of the jaw (trismus), neck (cervical dystonia), back, or extremities, as well as local and referred nerve pain, headaches, joint deformities, and other problems. Survivors of Hodgkin’s disease, head and neck cancer, and extremity sarcomas are more likely than others to develop radiation fibrosis syndrome, but it can potentially develop in anyone who has been treated with radiation.