Getting Physical to Beat Cancer
Increasing numbers of studies are indicating that physical activity can reduce the incidence of cancer. World Health Organization recommendations say that undertaking 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity a week can reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers. The same amount of exercise can also reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer: “Physical activity is one risk factor for non-communicable diseases which is modifiable and therefore of great potential public health significance”.
Physical therapy can play a role in your cancer recovery and help you return to daily tasks, function at prior levels of independence and regain vitality. Cancer rehabilitation is a growing area in 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. According to recent research from the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate of all cancers that were diagnosed between 2003 and 2009 is 68 percent. This is a 20 percent increase from 1975 to 1977. It is also estimated that over 13 million Americans have a history of cancer, and in 2014 there were an expected 1.6 million new cases. With more cancer survivors, there will need to be more recovery strategies. 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 a physical therapist comes in. Despite advances in medical treatments, individuals that receive cancer treatments typically experience extensive physical limitations during and after treatments.
Physical therapy can address common cancer related impairments including:
CRF(cancer related fatigue):Individualized aerobic training, strength training and functional management training is known to reduce effects of cancer related fatigue both during and after medical cancer treatments.
Pain: Pain relief strategies can reduce the intensity and frequency of pain after cancer treatment. Treatment strategies include soft tissue mobilization, therapeutic massage, modalities, therapeutic stretching and strengthening.
Peripheral neuropathy: Often, cancer survivors experience peripheral neuropathy, which is abnormal nerve function that can be experienced as pain, numbness and tingling. Physical therapy can help to improve nerve function or compensate for nerve dysfunction.
Deconditioning: Rebuilding endurance for activities and cardiovascular function can be difficult during and after cancer treatment. A skilled physical therapist is able to educate and monitor cardiovascular endurance training.
Lymphedema: Effective lymphedema management is accomplished through manual lymph drainage, range of motion exercises, aerobic exercise, and lymphatic bandaging.
Genitourinary complications: For men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and women undergoing treatment for bladder or ovarian cancer, incontinence and sexual dysfunction are common. A skilled physical therapist can help to rebuild the strength of the pelvic floor in order to improve urinary continence and reduce pain related to sexual function.