Katherine Graham is a new oncology specialist on the staff of Tobias Physical Therapy in Menlo Park. She’s been in practice for a little over two years, receiving her Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of Florida. Recently, she moved to Menlo with her husband, who’s doing a postdoc at Stanford. We sat down with her to talk about the special PT needs of cancer patients and survivors.
InMenlo: What drew you to your profession?
Katherine: It’s a beautiful thing to get up in the morning and know you have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. I was introduced to cancer rehabilitation as a student at Florida. At the university’s cancer center, they follow the national guidelines: When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they start physical therapy.
InMenlo: What are you focusing on in your practice here?
Katherine: Like in other locales, there are services for breast cancer patients in this area. But, cancer is cancer.
The benefits of beginning physical therapy when diagnosed have been well documented. Cancer treatments — including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and steroid use — can leave patients with short and long term health uses.
InMenlo: Can you provide some examples?
Katherine: Taking steroids during cancer treatment is pretty common and doing so really weakens the central muscles. Radiation also has a profound long term effect — it changes the DNA.
And, cancer-related fatigue is the primary complaint during cancer treatment and often persists after treatment. Exercise is one of the most powerful tools for combating cancer-related fatigue. Plus, National Comprehensive Cancer Center evidence-based research indicates that exercise decreases the risk of cancer recurrence and survival.
I’m here to get people started and to support them along the way. I’ve seen a lot of inspiring folks battle through the treatment effects and fatigue, really improving their quality of life.
Photo by Scott R. Kline