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Contributed by the editorial team at mesothelioma.net


The Effects of Assistive Technologies on Cancer Rehab Patients


After a diagnosis of cancer, patients can feel overwhelmed. Often, the first order of business is to decide on a treatment plan to slow or stop the progression of the disease, or to alleviate pain. Not only can cancers (such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, leukemia and others) lead to debilitation, but sometimes the treatments do, as well.


That’s where assistive technologies come in. Such tech can range from fairly simple items like wheelchairs, walkers, or chair lifters to advanced computing aids like eye-trackers, software programs, and voice recognition devices.


Whether it’s a Braille text, a cochlear implant, or weighted eating utensils that help people with tremors to feed themselves, assistive technology devices all have one thing in common. They allow those who are undergoing treatment for cancer and other diseases to function as independently as possible.


The value of such independence, and of the ability to perform daily activities as “normally” as possible, can hardly be underestimated. Cancer patients who experience the deterioration of their physical abilities can feel hopeless and frustrated, which in turn may affect their desire to continue treatment.


In fact, studies show that people diagnosed with cancer experience more profound psychosocial distress than their caregivers may realize. Naturally, after their diagnosis, patients may experience anger, sadness, despair, and then hope as they begin to pursue treatment. In addition to these common emotions, however, they may be worried about becoming a burden to their families, about the embarrassment of losing their motor skills or control of their bodily functions, about the cost to their families of rehabilitation, and much more.


Maintaining independence in daily living is a vital factor when it comes to the psychological well-being of cancer patients, particularly for those afflicted with a rare and terminal cancer. Being able to feed oneself, take care of personal hygiene with minimal help, get dressed, and sleep comfortably are abilities that healthy individuals often take for granted. During treatment for or rehabilitation from cancer, these tasks can become increasingly difficult.


While canes, walkers, and wheelchairs have been around for centuries — evidence of the first wheelchair dates all the way back to the 5th Century BC — exciting new advances in super high-tech assistive devices like exoskeletons promise more mobility for paraplegics and others who have lost their ability to walk than ever before.


Perhaps even more important than mobility and personal care, however, is the ability to communicate effectively with friends and loved ones. In recent decades, technological advances have made communication easier for everyone, but benefit cancer patients and others with disabilities in particular.


Communication devices like the Boogie Board, which is a digital slate that can be used over and over again, or a robotic table that allows bedridden patients to stay connected with the wider world through the internet, can be literal lifesavers for those who cannot speak due to diseases like throat cancer or mesothelioma.


There’s no denying that living with advanced cancers is a challenge, but thanks to the software, robotics, and engineering industries that develop assistive devices, patients are able to maintain their freedom and independence longer and more effectively.


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