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Innovators | Medicine

A new standard for rehab

Julie Silver, Oncology Rehab Partners

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
Dr. Julie Silver, Harvard Medical School

BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS might suffer from weakness, scar adhesions, cognitive problems, balance problems - the list goes on. But unlike stroke or heart attack victims, they are typically tossed out to sink or swim after chemotherapy or radiation.

Harvard Medical School physician Dr. Julie Silver, 47, believes that the 12 million cancer survivors in the United States should have rehabilitation services provided as a standard part of cancer care.

That belief is partly personal; Silver is a breast cancer survivor. Her rocky post-treatment experience, with little support for coping with the symptoms and the side effects that can emerge weeks or even years later, led her to develop a system to provide the rehab services patients need to return to normal life.


“I knew that there had to be a solution to educating health care professionals about cancer rehabilitation,’’ said Silver, who cofounded Northborough-based Oncology Rehab Partners in 2009. In the last year, Rhode Island and Massachusetts became the first states to adopt her system, which certifies rehab programs for cancer patients.

By the end of the year, Silver hopes to have a program in every state, so patients “can heal as well as possible, whether they are cured, or in remission, or living with cancer as a chronic condition.’’