Physiotherapy might not be the first allied health service you think of when you think of cancer treatment, but it can be a powerful and important adjunct to traditional treatment. There is a growing evidence base that supports the physiological and psychological benefits of physiotherapy in cancer treatment.
Cancer survival rates have significantly improved in past decades, leaving many people to deal with the after effects of surgery and treatment. Treatment can be physically debilitating, leaving people exhausted, weak and with compromised immune systems.
Many people who have been through the cancer experience will report suffering from side effects of treatment such as weakness, poor endurance, reduced balance from persistent neuropathies and poor flexibility as well as mental health issues such as depression, low self esteem and self worth.
Cancer related fatigue in particular affects as much as 90% of patients treated with radiation, and 80% of those treated with chemotherapy.
Physiotherapy is ideally placed to address some of these issues through the use of both manual therapies as well as exercise based rehab, and getting moving and engaging with the community can have additional health benefits. Physiotherapy can be useful in repairing damage, reducing pain, improving mobility and stiffness and influencing quality of life during and after cancer.
It has been shown that physical activity and muscle contraction promote the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines and interleukins, these chemicals influence organs like the brain, liver and pancreas, helping to maintain healthy tissue function, metabolism, and immune system response.
Getting back to moving and exercising after cancer can be daunting, but your physiotherapist can assist you in this process to reduce the possibility of long-term functional limitations and unnecessary disability.