How physiotherapy benefits cancer treatment

A cancer diagnosis can be life-changing. The words 'you have cancer' can bring our daily lives to a halt as we, or our loved one seeks treatment.

cancer patient

Cancer treatments and any surgeries can be physically taxing on the human body.

There are ways to maintain levels of strength during this time, which can aid your recovery and remission.

Your physiotherapist can work in collaboration with other health professionals to create an exercise and rehabilitation plan.

The journey to rehabilitation

With advances in medicine, more people are surviving cancer than ever before.

For the many survivors, returning to work is part of their extended recovery.

This gives them a feeling of returning to ‘normal life’ and to feel socially connected and productive.

For each survivor this will vary:

  • For some it may be returning to work or school, going back to the gym or the football pitch
  • Or for others it may be going for a walk on the beach with a friend

Any of these goals require muscle strength, endurance, balance and coordination - all part of the rehabilitation process whilst undergoing treatment.

Exercise and movement are good for keeping us healthy and improving how our body functions.

Which makes incorporating these into rehabilitation vital for people living with cancer.

The benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved muscle mass and strength
  • Increase in immune response and function
  • A decrease in anxiety and depression
  • An improvement in quality of life and survival overall

How physical therapy supports treatment

It is widely known that there are many different types of cancers today.

How different types of cancers affect the different systems of our body influences recovery and rehabilitation.

For example, lung cancer would affect the individuals ability to breathe and aerobic capacity.

The goal of recovery is for the systems to work cohesively to the best of their ability.

During cancer treatments and surgeries, many of our usual movements and even bodily functions can be affected.

As a result, our bodies work harder in order to function.

It is at this point which individuals start to lose muscle mass and muscle strength. They can experience frequent fatigue and their activity becomes severely limited.

Recovery is a team effort

At what feels like the most physically and mentally challenging point of treatment, you can you can rebuild your resilience.

Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dieticians and other members of the rehabilitation team all play a vital role ensuring a patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Collectively, they ensure a tailored exercise program is implemented to the person’s current physical abilities.

All with the goal to improve their mobility and to regain their independence.

Rehabilitation during cancer treatment can also continue at home, once they have been discharged.

Overcoming challenges

Once discharged, this is where it is both the most challenging and most beneficial to maintain your rehabilitation.

While challenges for every individual will vary, they can include:

  • The patient or family members not being properly informed or knowing what to expect after discharge
  • Side effects of cancer treatment (long and short term) on the patient
  • Some cultural beliefs

Having a rehabilitation team at your side to provide support and guidance is crucial to the success of your recovery and remission.

As the person starts to regain their strength and become less fatigued, the rehabilitation shifts to a community-based program.

This is often the most exciting and rewarding part of the rehabilitation process, not only for the individual but for the family and the wider community.

With ongoing rehabilitation, it’s essential to have a solid support network of loved ones and health professionals to help you along the way.

Building resilience, boosting recovery

The side effects of muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass and fatigue can all be prevented or managed well with simple and safe forms of exercise.

When done in the early stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment, they can be highly effective.

It best to consult with your health professionals before starting any routine or exercise plan.

An exercise plan can include recommendations like:

  • Walking for 30 minutes five-days a week
  • Simple resistance exercises at home or the gym for 15 minutes a day
  • Light to moderate aerobic exercise (e.g. riding a bike or going for a hike) for 30 minutes a day

Throughout and after cancer treatment, every little effort adds up to a stronger recovery and quality of life.

To find out more about the benefits physiotherapy for cancer treatment, reach out to APM’s physiotherapy team to book a consultation.

You can book an appointment with an APM Physiotherapist online or in your local area by calling 0800 967 522.

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