Did You Know Physical Therapy Can Help Patients Dealing With Cancer?
Cancer affects 39.6% of people in the United States (US) at some point in their lives, with more than 1.5 million new cases diagnosed each year. Physical therapists help people manage cancer-related problems, improve their health and functional abilities, and return to work and other activities.
Cancer and the side effects of treatment can cause physical problems, such as:
Numbness in feet and hands
Swelling of lymph nodes (lymphedema)
Swelling of arms, legs, torso, or face
Loss of endurance
Loss of bone density (strength)
Loss of balance
A physical therapist can examine a person who has been diagnosed with cancer for physical problems that cause discomfort or difficulty with movement. The physical therapy examination tests a person’s strength, flexibility, balance, sensation, coordination, endurance, and ability to walk and get around. Physical therapists create specialized treatment plans to address the needs and goals of people affected by cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors and people undergoing cancer treatment perform consistent physical exercise to decrease fatigue and improve the ability to perform normal daily activities. Studies show that exercise can improve an individual’s chances of surviving cancer. Physical therapists can design individualized exercise and treatment programs to reduce or prevent many cancer-related problems.
Before surgery, physical therapists evaluate individuals for any of the problems listed above and help address them. After surgery they can help with the healing of the incision site, improve circulation, aerobic capacity and balance, and reduce pain, lymphedema, and general swelling.