Cancer Survivors: How Physical Therapy Rehab Can Help Recovery

More than 15.5 million people have survived their battle with cancer, according to Fighting any form of cancer is a life, and often body, changing struggle but cancer rehab can help survivors adjust and move forward with their lives.

What Does Cancer do to the Body?

When a person has cancer, abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the body, which causes the destruction of normal, healthy cells. This affects the individual’s health and body function or body parts and can cause death.

How Many People Have Cancer?

The World Health Organization reports that cancer is the second leading cause of death, globally (approximately 9.6 million deaths in 2018, as of September 12, 2018). This is equivalent to 1 in 6 deaths (globally), is due to cancer.

In the U.S., 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were estimated to be diagnosed in 2018 alone, and around 609,640 people are expected to die from the disease.


Who are Cancer Survivors?

Cancer Rehab Patient Consults Doctors

According to the National Cancer Institute, “An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.”

However, as mentioned earlier, the purpose of this article is to identify the advantages of cancer rehab to patients. So, we will focus on the definition of which refers to “any person with a history of cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the remainder of their life.”

How Can Physical Therapy Help Cancer Patients?

A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing occurrence that profoundly affects the patient and his/her family and friends. Fortunately, after an initial diagnosis, there are several treatment options available such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgical interventions, and other drugs. These have helped more people live longer after their diagnosis.

However, cancer and these treatments can have long-lasting effects even after patients achieve remission. Many people experience a decrease in their quality of life during and after treatment. They are not able to function as well as they did before they were diagnosed.

Physical therapy and cancer rehabilitation can help patients restore function after cancer.

What are signs that you need Cancer Rehab?

  1. You feel weak now compared to when you were initially diagnosed with cancer.
  2. You feel more tired now than you were before your cancer diagnosis.
  3. You have difficulty recovering from treatment and are unable to do the things that you used to do.
  4. You have difficulty talking or swallowing.
  5. You have muscular or orthopedic problems.
  6. You feel pain that is not caused by cancer.
  7. You are not sure how best to exercise and how much you need to exercise.
  8. You struggle with memory problems or have difficulty concentrating.

What Role do Physical Therapists Play in Cancer Rehab Programs?

Physical Therapists play a unique role in a cancer care team because they are trained to address these functional challenges that may develop as a result of cancer and cancer treatment. They evaluate these issues and are able to provide effective cancer rehab programs that can help a person return to his/her previous level of physical function.

What can Physical Therapists do to Help Cancer Survivors?

In addition to detailed assessments and interventions, physical therapists can also help a cancer survivor with:

  • Improving his/her overall well-being

Cancer and cancer treatments can cause pain, weakness, spasms and a variety of symptoms. A physical therapist may apply manual therapy (massage, pressure release)  to alleviate your symptoms. He/she can also teach you some exercises you can perform at home to help with your recovery.

  • Improving your ability to process oxygen

Cancer and cancer treatments can decrease your aerobic capacity or your ability to process oxygen. This results in fatigue. Your physical therapist will evaluate your aerobic capacity and will determine what aerobics activities are best for you to help improve your ability to process oxygen.

  • Improving your bone density

A lack of activity and certain cancer treatments can cause weakening of your bones which may result in bone fractures. Your physical therapist can teach you safe and effective exercises that will help build your bone strength.

  • Preventing or controlling lymphedema and swelling

Some cancer treatments cause lymphedema (swelling in the arms or legs), or other types of swelling Your physical therapist can provide a specialized gentle massage or teach you special movements and exercises that can help control and prevent swelling.

  • Restoring normal movement

Cancer and cancer treatments can cause you to have stiff joints. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments that will help restore normal movement.

  • Restoring your balance

Gait and Balance Physical Therapy

You may have difficulty maintaining your balance when you’ve had cancer and/or cancer treatments. Your physical therapist will choose specific exercises to improve your balance and prevent falls. Depending on your condition, your physical therapist may also teach you how to use a cane or walker to help maintain your balance when walking and standing.

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight

Your physical therapist can help you reduce body fat and maintain a healthy body weight by creating an exercise program tailored to your needs.

  • Improving flexibility, strength, and coordination

Your physical therapist will determine if you have tight muscles or weak or injured muscles. He/she will teach you exercises to improve your flexibility and strength. Your physical therapist will also help you improve and regain your coordination and agility so you can easily perform regular daily tasks as well as sports activities.

Cancer rehab has been proven to be effective in helping with continued treatment and recovery of cancer survivors. Your physical therapist will encourage you to remain open and honest about your fears and limitations. It is okay to ask questions. There may be times when you will not respond favorably to a specific treatment. You need to be honest so that your physical therapist can modify your treatment accordingly.

Vigor Therapy and Rehabilitation has a dedicated therapist who uses 100% hands-on approach and takes personal care of each patient.

If you want to know more about the treatments that we offer, contact us today for a free phone consultation.