Megan Burkart, assistant professor in the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Division of Physical Therapy, is the first physical therapist in West Virginia to achieve specialization as an Oncologic Clinical Specialist.
She is one of only 68 physical therapists in the United States to earn this new certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Burkart provides state of the art care for patients at the WVU Cancer Institute’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and works closely with lung cancer patients in the Bridge Survivorship Program.
People undergoing the cancer journey often have specialized physical therapy needs because of the effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical treatments. As a certified clinical specialist, Dr. Burkart has demonstrated expertise in managing these effects through a minimum of 2000 hours of direct patient care for many types of cancer and successful completion of a rigorous written examination.
“Cancer treatment as a whole causes a fair amount of physical limitations and impairments,” Burkart said. “An estimated 60 to 80 percent of patients who [have cancer treatment] have at least one impairment that is amenable to physical therapy. Only about one percent of those patients receive physical therapy.”
Being recognized as a specialty within the physical therapy profession indicates the high level of knowledge and skill required to help these patients achieve optimal function and mobility at any stage of their treatment.
Physical therapists help manage a number of conditions that result from cancer treatment. Patients who have had surgery or radiation often experience weakness or a loss of range of motion in the affected areas and nearby joints, and chemotherapy can cause peripheral neuropathy, a tingling in the hands and feet that can affect dexterity and balance.
“These patients often have trouble with things like holding a fork, buttoning a shirt, or other motor issues,” Burkart said. “The most common effects of cancer treatment are pain and fatigue, both of which respond beautifully to exercise. We like to say that the oncologists put the days back in patients’ lives, but physical therapists help put the life back in their days.”
Patients who are interested in oncologic physical therapy can request a consultation to see Dr. Burkart through their primary care provider or oncology team.
For information on WVU’s Division of Physical Therapy, visit medicine.hsc.wvu.edu/pt.
Patients or those interested in clinical services should contact WVU Medicine at 855.WVU.CARE, or visit wvumedicine.org.