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University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center Rehabilitation Services enhance cancer patients’ survivorship with specialized STAR Program® Certification

STAR Program oncology rehabilitation at UH Geauga Medical Center
STAR Program oncology rehabilitation at UH Geauga Medical Center

Hospital became first in Northeast Ohio to offer gold-standard for oncology rehabilitation


GEAUGA COUNTY – University Hospitals (UH) Geauga Medical Center has achieved the gold standard in oncology rehabilitation: STAR Program Certification.


The STAR Program includes a set of protocols that allows the UH Geauga Medical Center Rehabilitation Services team to expand and focus its rehab capabilities utilizing evidence-based medicine. The result for cancer patients is an improved quality of life before, during and after their individualized cancer treatments.


“For our therapists, STAR certification involves intense, specialized training on what happens to a cancer patient on a cellular level from the onset of the disease, through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,” says Dotti Thompson, MOT, OTR/L, CLT, Manager, Rehabilitation Department, UH Geauga Medical Center. “This training enables us to better rehabilitate survivors and navigate them through every phase of treatment and recovery, even years later.”


STAR certification is employed in multiple oncology scenarios, including cases of fibrosis after radiation treatments. “Our expertise helps patients overcome or manage the pain and limited range of motion that accompanies fibrosis,” says Thompson. Complications and pain from lymphedema – fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system which often occurs in cancer survivors years after treatment has ended – can also be effectively relieved by the UH Geauga Medical Center team’s STAR Program training.


Barbara Fernald, a teacher and Chardon resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Before her lumpectomy at UH Seidman Cancer Center at UH Geauga Medical Center that August, which required the removal of two lymph nodes, Barbara was seen by Dotti Thompson and the hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation team. They educated her about lymphedema, took a baseline measurement of her arms and urged her to call if she experienced swelling.


“During my radiation treatments three months later, I noticed one arm was getting a little swollen,” says Barbara. “I went to see Dotti at UH Geauga Medical Center and she taught me several different exercises to reduce the lymphedema, increase my range of motion and in the process retrain my body so the fluid would not pool in my arm. The therapy is working very well.”


Barbara’s rehab with Dotti and the STAR-certified team at UH Geauga Medical Center began with monthly outpatient appointments. Her survivorship has progressed to the point where she only needs therapy once or twice a year.  “I don’t have any pain at all now,” she says. “Dotti is so caring, so encouraging and she explains every exercise to me in detail. With UH Geauga Medical Center’s help and support, I plan on being around for a long time.”


The hospital’s Rehabilitation Department primarily practices its STAR techniques for area cancer patients at its Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and Aquatic Center, located at the Geauga Family YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, 12460 Bass Lake Road in Chardon.


“We now have more than 20 STAR-trained and certified clinicians,” says Thompson. They range from speech, occupational and physical therapists to one or more members of the hospital’s dietary, pharmacy, social services, patient navigator and physician staffs. They include clinicians at UH Conneaut and Geneva medical centers, who are more accessible to cancer patients residing in Ashtabula County.


To learn more about the STAR Program oncology rehabilitation services that are available close to home, call the UH Geauga Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and Aquatic Center at 440-285-6889, or visit www.uhgeauga.org and click “Services.”

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