Role of Physiotherapy in Cancer Treatment
By Sneha B.S, Consultant Physiotherapist
When you think about cancer treatment, the main things that come to your mind are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Of course, these are the first lines of treatment used to make the patient cancer free. In addition to these rigorous approaches to reverse the condition, supportive care plays a key role in managing patient condition in a holistic manner. One of the key components of supportive care is Physiotherapy. It is a field of allied health science that mainly deals with human movement, strength and overall physical functioning. At all stages (before, during and after) of cancer treatment, physiotherapy has an important role to play.
Cancer treatment makes a huge impact on the physical functions of the individual. Pain, fatigue, lymphedema, loss of muscle strength, de-conditioning and loss of confidence are common. All these make it difficult to lead life in a normal way. Naturally, the quality of life also reduces. Hence, addressing these factors are extremely vital.
Exercise is medicine! Just like your regular medicines, exercise also has to be regularly practiced with the right type and dosage to suit your physical state. The level of physical fitness depends upon factors like physical activity levels before cancer, type and stage of cancer and the treatment. A physiotherapist will be able to assess your physical state and prescribe you a relevant exercise program. In addition to this, they will also help you in managing any type of pain resulting from muscles/joints/ side-effects of the treatment and overcome fatigue.
What are the types of exercises that you can practice?
For good physical fitness, 4 types of exercises are prescribed in general.
Aerobic exercises: These exercises work up your heart and lungs. They will improve your breathing, improve blood circulation and activate large muscles of the body. Examples include Walking, Jogging, swimming etc
Anaerobic/Strength Training: These exercises are mainly focussed on loading your muscles. The movements are usually anti-gravity and against some kind of resistance like dumbbells, resistance bands or moving against one’s own body weight.
Flexibility Exercises: These exercises involve stretching of muscles to optimal range. They help in increasing the lymphatic and blood circulation.
Breathing exercises: This improves your lung function, chest expansion, reduces fatigue.
A physiotherapist will help you in managing any type of pain resulting from muscles/joints/ side-effects. They will be able to assess and treat it with exercise, manual therapy, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (whichever is relevant). Physiotherapists are skilled to manage a very important condition, Lymphedema, that occurs in breast cancer patients after cancer treatment. In addition to all this, they can guide you with various breathing techniques and energy conservation methods to facilitate your functional independence.
It is critical to get a clearance from your treating oncologist or a physician. After the clearance, a physiotherapist can assess and design a therapy program that is relevant and beneficial for you.
Get a physiotherapy consultation now and take a step towards improving your overall physical well being.