Meet Dr. Kim BarkerCancer Rehabilitation Specialist in Dallas

As one of the few cancer rehabilitation specialists in the North Texas region, Kim Barker, M.D., helps patients improve their daily functioning and quality of life during or after cancer treatment. She also educates patients about potential physical impairments before treatment begins.

Dr. Barker says there’s a notion that recovering from cancer is just going to be “bad.” However, she’s working to dispel this – and says there are potential ways to manage the side effects of all types of cancers and their treatments. This includes patients diagnosed with breast, head and neck, lung, blood, and prostate cancers, as well as, brain and spinal cord tumors.

“You never know how cancer treatment is going to affect you,” Dr. Barker says. “Your main focus at first is just to survive the cancer, but we can also help you try and maintain normalcy throughout the treatment course or help you get back to your ‘normal’ life. You don’t have to do it on your own.”

About 25 percent of the cancer patients Dr. Barker sees are breast cancer survivors, whether they need help immediately after a mastectomy or years after receiving treatment. The three most common issues patients face after breast cancer treatments are neuropathy, lymphedema, and painful, tight tissue.

Personalized treatment plans

Cancer treatment can cause muscle weakness, poor endurance, pain, neuropathy, fatigue, and other side effects that can interfere with a patient’s ability to perform daily tasks. Dr. Barker – working with a team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists – creates a customized treatment plan for each patient based on his or her specific needs and goals.

Rehabilitation for cancer patients may include building strength and endurance through exercise or individualized therapy or providing assistive devices such as canes or walkers. Patients may also learn adapted ways to do daily activities such as dressing or bathing. Part of the rehabilitation plan may also include medications or injections that may be able to control pain and other symptoms.

“A lot of what we do depends on what the patient wants to achieve,” Dr. Barker says. “We need the patients’ input and their active participation to help them reach their goals.”

These goals are different for every patient, Dr. Barker notes. For example, she recently helped a wheelchair-bound grandfather learn how to push his grandson’s stroller from his wheelchair. She helped another patient return to tennis after undergoing a mastectomy.

In addition to being an expert in cancer rehabilitation, Dr. Barker works with critically ill patients in the ICU setting, after a transplant, or after an LVAD implantation or other major surgery. She also has achieved success with helping them overcome functional limitations.