Claire Boyce and Jenny Payne at Active + Albany say that many head and neck cancer patients need more physiotherapy sessions than people from other cancer groups.

They treat neck and shoulder problems, trismus and lymphoedema for patients who have had surgery or chemoradiation or both. Some patients see them before, during or after radiotherapy.

Claire and Jenny are Pinc & Steel certified physios and complete ongoing training. For example, they might train for a certificate in dealing with patients who have recurrences.

As well as that their boss has to pay for their huge space and large staff, their clinic rooms, studio, and gym. Private physical rehabilitation doesn’t come cheaply for their cancer patients who are often referred from private cancer clinics like Mercy Ascot, Auckland Radiation Oncology and Canopy Cancer Care. These patients usually have insurance, but insurance might not cover all costs.

They said that some patients are so keen to be rehabilitated that they go without other things and pay the full cost to get their life back. Returning to work is often the goal.

How much does it cost to have cancer rehab physio via Pinc & Steel?

The first one on one hour is $150

A 45-minute follow-up is $115

A 30-minute follow-up is $80

After that, patients can go onto targeted classes which are free for the patient and funded by Pinc & Steel’s Dry July fundraising or by clinics themselves. Albany has sometimes organised an annual Long Bay Run, for example.

However, any cancer patient can apply for Pinc & Steel, and many will be accepted for full funding because the clinics in their area have fundraised. South Auckland clinics are well funded.

As stated above, head and neck cancer patients often need more than the two one-on-ones and many people in our group have gone on for extra sessions. When we paid Pinc & Steel to put ten head and neck cancer patients through their rehab programme, we figured that most people would need only the first two! Despite that, we are proud that our little charity has put ten to eleven people on the path to recovery.

Other cancer charities like the Prostate Cancer Foundation also pay for patients to receive Pinc & Steel physio.

Lymphoedema treatment is more complicated and more expensive. Physios need extra registration in this field. Of course, treatment for lymphoedema and all the other issues mentioned above can be accessed in the public system.

From my experience only patients with serious side effects get public treatment, however.

Jenny says that patients often look okay after treatment, but they might be in sore need of physical and mental rehab. Even those with less serious related cancers like thyroid cancer can have shoulder problems after treatment.

According to Claire, some head and neck patients have needed to be seen 60 times; on average clients are seen 19 to 26 times – people that have received radiotherapy often need more therapy.