Depending on the type of surgery you have, it may take many weeks or months to fully recover. A range of therapies can support you in your recovery and show you ways to manage any longer term changes. These therapies are known as rehabilitation. Hospital staff or your GP can organise referrals to any support services you need after surgery.
Rehabilitation may be available at your cancer treatment centre, through a rehabilitation specialist at a rehabilitation hospital, or at home. Your GP or specialist may also refer you to allied health professionals (e.g. physiotherapist, occupational therapist) in private practice. Ask to see a therapist experienced in working with people after cancer surgery.
Some common types of rehabilitation therapy
PhysiotherapyA physiotherapist can help you learn how to move more easily, improve your range of motion, develop muscle strength and improve balance. They can tailor a program to help you return to your usual activities. Visit Australian Physiotherapy Association.
Speech therapyA speech pathologist can help restore speech if your ability to speak clearly has been affected by surgery. They also work with people who have difficulty swallowing food and drink after cancer treatment. Visit Speech Pathology Australia.
Occupational therapyAn occupational therapist can help you manage everyday personal tasks (e.g. showering, dressing). They can also give you strategies and aids to help you manage fatigue and maintain your independence. Visit Occupational Therapy Australia.
Exercise physiologyAn exercise physiologist can help with increasing physical activity and exercising safely to improve circulation and mobility, increase your heart and lung fitness, and help you return to your usual activities. Visit Exercise & Sports Science Australia.
Nutritional supportA dietitian can explain how to manage any special dietary needs or any ongoing problems with food and eating after surgery. They can also help you choose the best foods for your situation. Visit Dietitians Australia.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Exercise and cancer
Exercise helps most people during and after cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, learn about our free exercise programs, and watch our series of exercise videos