The first cancer physiatrist in Western Canada, Dr. George Francis, brings a little-known specialty to Alberta Health Services. Physiatry, otherwise known as physical medicine and rehabilitation, examines and treats problems in patients’ functional ability and mobility, restoring impairment problems in a variety of body systems.
Many physiatrists treat cancer patients when they have specific issues, such as stiff shoulders resulting from mastectomy, but they often aren’t dedicated to long-term treatment of cancer patients. With a sub-specialty in cancer rehabilitation, Francis gives Albertan patients the specialized cancer rehabilitation care currently not available.
“There are many rehabilitation services and people available in Alberta doing great work,” Francis says. “However, much focus is on cancer treatment, and afterwards patients may be left with functional issues, pain or limited strength and mobility that were not initially recognized, and they may not have access to the resources that are available.”
Under Francis’s care, patients benefit from earlier identification and treatment of rehabilitation issues potentially stemming from the cancer itself or treatment plans. Rehabilitation improves cancer patients’ abilities to perform daily tasks throughout cancer care. Cancer rehabilitation programs in other centres have resulted in shorter lengths of stay for patients, improved abilities to exercise and improved quality of life.