Head and Neck Cancer Rehabilitation: Restoring Function and Quality of Life

When it comes to head and neck cancer rehabilitation on the Central Coast, Kate Perkins is leading the way. As the founder and lead therapist at Cancer Rehabilitation & Lymphatic Solutions, Kate has built an impressive career specialising in this area. She takes a comprehensive approach to helping patients recover from head and neck cancer and its treatments, including managing the debilitating effects of radiation fibrosis and lymphoedema.

Kate addresses both the physical and emotional needs of her patients. “My role also goes beyond just the clinical aspects,” she explains. “I am the extra level of support for patients as they undergo treatments. Having someone to listen and provide informed recommendations can make a big difference.”

Key Benefits of Head and Neck Cancer Rehabilitation

Cancer rehabilitation plays a pivotal role in improving the quality of life for head and neck cancer patients. Through a comprehensive approach, it addresses the complex challenges these individuals face, both physical and emotional. Some key benefits include:

  • Pain management and reduction of treatment-related side effects: Rehabilitation techniques help manage radiation fibrosis, oral mucositis, dry mouth, trismus (reduced jaw function), and lymphoedema. State-of-the-art technologies like MLS® Laser Therapy, combined with specialised hands-on techniques, are employed to alleviate these side effects.
  • Regaining strength, endurance, and mobility: Targeted exercises and therapies help patients regain their physical capabilities, improving strength, endurance, and mobility.
  • Swallowing and speech retraining: Rehabilitation focuses on retraining the muscles involved in swallowing (dysphagia) and speech, improving communication and eating capacity.
  • Lymphoedema management: Manual lymphatic drainage, compression garments, and specific exercises are used to manage lymphoedema, reduce radiation fibrosis, and improve lymphatic function.
  • Psychological support: In collaboration with psychologists and support groups, rehabilitation provides emotional support to cope with anxiety, depression, and adjustments to changes in appearance and social roles.

Radiation Fibrosis Formation and Management

Radiation fibrosis is a condition that can develop after exposure to therapeutic radiation, leading to the formation of scar tissue. This process involves chronic inflammation, release of cytokines, and excessive collagen production, resulting in thickened and fibrotic tissues.

OncoLaser™ treatment, using MLS® Laser Therapy, helps manage radiation fibrosis by reducing cytokine production, limiting excess collagen fibre formation, and delaying the development of thicker scar tissue. Early intervention with OncoLaser™ can help maintain softer tissues in the radiation-treated area for a longer period.

Postural Changes and Rehabilitation Strategies

Head and neck cancer treatments can lead to postural changes due to various factors, including surgical effects, radiation-induced fibrosis, muscle deconditioning, and neck and shoulder issues.

Rehabilitation strategies to address these postural changes may include:

    • Exercise programs: Individualised exercises designed to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
    • Postural exercises: Specific exercises targeting posture correction, strengthening back, neck, and shoulder muscles, and stretching to relieve muscle tightness.
    • OncoLaser™ treatment: Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) using MLS® Laser helps soften radiation fibrosis, accelerates tissue healing, and reduces muscle tissue stiffness, enhancing movement and reducing pain and discomfort.

Kate Perkins, leader in Head and Neck Cancer Rehabilitation, Radiation Fibrosis, Central Coast Australia

Kate Perkins’ Expertise as a Head and Neck Lymphoedema Practitioner

Kate is qualified in the specialised area of head and neck lymphoedema therapy, and managing the side effect of head and neck cancer treatment.

Lymphoedema, a common side effect of head and neck cancer treatment, can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. It occurs when the lymphatic system is disrupted secondary to lymph node removal from surgery, and chemotherapy radiation treatment, leading to fluid accumulation and swelling, often in the head, neck, and facial regions.

Pioneering Treatment Approach In Treating Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) Side Effects

Kate Perkins, co-founder with Dr Catherine Norton, of OncoLaser™ is leading the way in treating the side effects of head and neck cancer treatments using MLS® Laser in combination with hands-on techniques, and changing people’s lives by improving their quality of life.

Presenting On The World Stage

This August, she is set to present a clinical paper at the World Association of Photobiomodulation Therapy’s (WALT) 30th Anniversary at PBM2024 Conference in London, on treating the side effects of radiation fibrosis in head and neck cancer patients using MLS® Laser.

Kate prides herself on staying at the forefront of cancer rehabilitation practices. She continually engages in professional development to keep abreast of emerging research, new techniques, and the latest evidence-based approaches. As a highly sought-after international speaker and educator, Kate regularly presents to oncology specialists, GPs, and other allied health professionals.

Her commitment to ongoing education ensures her patients receive the most up-to-date and effective care.

Challenges During Rehabilitation

Despite the benefits, rehabilitation can present its own set of challenges. Patients may experience:

  • Fatigue and reduced energy levels, making it difficult to adhere to exercise regimens.
  • Emotional distress and difficulty adjusting to changes in appearance and functional abilities.
  • Difficulty with communication, impacting social interactions and support systems.
  • Financial and employment concerns due to prolonged treatment and recovery periods.

To address these challenges, the team at Cancer Rehabilitation & Lymphatic Solutions works closely with patients to adjust and personalise treatment protocols to suit their individual needs and circumstances.

Empowering Patients

Kate has cultivated a dedicated support network among her patients as well. This community atmosphere allows individuals to share experiences, celebrate victories together, and lean on each other through tough times. This support is evident during the specific Head and Neck Cancer Rehab Exercise classes that are held at the clinic.

With her compassionate approach, leading-edge therapies, and dedication to her patients’ overall well-being, Kate Perkins has cemented herself as the Central Coast’s top head and neck cancer rehabilitation therapist. Her commitment to this specialised area of care is truly invaluable for those impacted by these conditions.