December 2013 – Riverside Health System has earned certification as a STAR Program® provider, benefiting cancer survivors through physical, occupational and speech therapy.

The STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) Program offers rehabilitation services for cancer patients and survivors who are experiencing debilitating side effects from cancer treatment.  Riverside Health System is the first health system in southeastern Virginia to become accredited in cancer survivorship, and only the fortieth system in the nation.

The STAR Program® Certification is awarded by the Massachusetts-based Oncology Rehab Partners who are nationwide leaders in the field of cancer survivorship care.  The program was developed by an assistant professor at Harvard who is also a cancer survivor.

Cancer treatment may cause pain, fatigue and loss of function.  For instance, a head and neck cancer patient may have swallowing difficulties after treatment or may have limited range of motion which then impairs his or her ability to drive.   A breast cancer patient may have lymphedema after surgery and need to learn how to control the swelling.  The STAR program uses evidence-based, specialty rehabilitation to minimize treatment's side effects, allowing patients and survivors to function at the highest level possible.

Caregivers from a variety of disciplines--including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, dietitans and mental health professionals--will work as a team with each patient on a rehabilitation plan to increase strength and energy, manage pain, correct balance and gait problems and improve daily function and quality of life.   The program includes "prehabilitation" before treatment begins as well as rehabilitation during and after acute cancer treatment.

On the Eastern Shore, physical therapist Scott Milliken became certified by passing a rigorous exam.  "First our cancer team treats the patient in order to ensure the best prognosis.  But we also focus on helping them recover as great a quality of life as possible.  Many patients assume they just have to put up with the after-effects of treatment, so they don't tell us if they have a problem.  Instead, we proactively assess their condition and build rehabilitation into their treatment plan," said Milliken.  "It's planned, it's expected, and even those patients who say they are 'fine' are offered rehabilitation that might help them move to 'great', because it's not enough to come through cancer;  we want you to have your life back," said Milliken.

For more information on the services offered by

Riverside 's STAR Program, call 1-757-243-2174.

Published: December 20, 2013