Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and accounts for 13% of all deaths. Cancer is an umbrella used to describe more than 100 different diseases with the characteristics of uncontrolled malignant cell growth.
When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, physiotherapy may not be the first healthcare field that comes to mind. Early cancer treatment is met with oncologists, radiologists, nurses, and surgeons. However, Physiotherapy plays a very important role in the cancer recovery and rehabilitation.
Firstly, let’s understand
What Is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapists are exercise experts, providing support for a wide range of people to optimize their physical ability. They prescribe exercise as part of a structured, safe and effective program.
Why Should Physiotherapy be considered for Cancer Survivors?
Cancer rehabilitation is a growing area of medicine due to the increase in cancer survivorship. More and more individuals are beating cancer because of advances in medical technology, treatment, and early detection. Cancer treatment is a grueling course, leaving many people exhausted, weak and with a compromised immune system. Just getting out of bed can be a huge and daunting task, let alone exercising in a gymnasium or playing at the park with grandchildren. This is where physiotherapy comes in.
Despite advances in medical treatments, individuals that receive cancer treatments typically experience extensive physical limitations during and after treatments. These limitations include and are not limited to cancer-related fatigue (CRF), pain, nerve damage, lymphedema, deconditioning, as well as incontinence.
How can Physiotherapy Help Cancer Survivors?
There is strong evidence to support conservative management of all the impairments through physiotherapy. As each individual experiences different impairments during and after cancer treatment, it is important to have an individualized evaluation to focus the rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is focused on:
1) Pain management: Pain after cancer treatments can be intense and debilitating. Physiotherapist:
a. Works on soft tissues through hands-on tissue release, modalities, stretching and strengthening thus reducing the intensity and duration of the pain.
b. Can advise some pain management strategies that can be incorporated into the daily routine.
2) Cardiovascular performance can be greatly affected during and after the cancer treatment period. An experienced physiotherapist and the other health professionals at your rehabilitation clinic can help you regain endurance and will monitor your cardiovascular status. Physiotherapists are health professionals who are trained to see the signs of fatigue and stress and will educate you on how to recognize these signs and will develop safe and achievable goals for cardiovascular fitness.
3) Neuropathy is a very common side effect of cancer treatment. It can manifest itself as tingling, numbness, and pain and is caused by changes in nerve conduction. Speak to your Physiotherapist about how treatment can help with neuropathy.
4) Fatigue during and after cancer treatment can be severe and incapacitating. There is an abundance of medical research showing that moderate, supervised exercise and stretching can significantly reduce the feelings of fatigue and malaise. An experienced physiotherapist at your rehabilitation clinic understands how to get you moving towards your more energized and happier self in a manner that is gentle and safe.
5) Lymphedema is the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissue creating swelling throughout the body and in particular the limbs. The lymph glands are often targeted for cancer treatment and lymphedema is a common feature of treatment. Physiotherapists can help minimize the effects of lymphedema and promote improved mobility and motion.
It is never too late to utilize rehabilitation services for cancer recovery. If you find that you are having trouble accomplishing daily tasks or functioning at your prior level of independence, seek out a rehabilitation expert and regain your vitality.
Dr. Mans Parikh,
Co-Founder, EndoRush App