The number of people living longer and surviving cancer is growing, however these people may be living with long-term side effects of the disease and treatment (both physical and emotional), which make them feel they haven’t ‘beaten’ cancer at all. Side effects may be visible during or very soon after treatment, or they may take months and years to be seen. Many of these side effects can significantly affect quality of life. Cancer Rehabilitattion Physiotherapists can help minimise the risk of short and long-term side effects and help prevent unnecessary disability.
The primary focus of oncology medical professionals is to eliminate or control disease by suppressing cancer cell growth (chemo, radiation) or directly removing the tumour (surgery). These treatments are increasingly successful but they also damage ‘normal’ tissue. While oncology specialists seek the best possible outcomes, i.e. the absence of any residual cancer – this does not mean genuine, meaningful recovery is complete. The Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists’ focus is on supporting the whole patient, not just addressing their cancer.
Physiotherapists have a very important educational role during and after cancer treatments to help people understand how they can help themselves. Cancer treatments are tough but are more manageable when people know what to expect and are given good advise on all the things they can do to maximise their own recovery and help them take positive steps for their future health and wellbeing. Ongoing education throughout cancer treatment is also vital to heighten the patient’s awareness of the potential late effects from treatment and to promote a proactive approach to their diagnosis and treatment. In addition, physiotherapists work to reinforce health-promoting behaviours such as exercise, weight control and physical activity.
Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists are experts in restoring movement and function to people affected by cancer. However, it doesn't stop there. There is also strong evidence supporting rehabilitation and exercise not only help people physically but also emotionally, vocationally and socially.
Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists are experienced in the management of fatigue during and after cancer treatment. It is very important to manage fatigue symptoms; to provide adequate support for people remaining at work as well as returning to work. There is also an abundance of evidence that regular moderate exercise can decrease feelings of tiredness, lack of energy and fatigue. During cancer treatment it is often possible to continue exercising if it is carefully prescribed by a Cancer Rehab Physiotherapist.
There is an emotional toll that cancer survivors face in addition to the physical one. A cancer diagnosis can cause depression, anger, anxiety, fear and stress. Proper breathing techniques, stretching, reassurance and education can help improve psychological recovery.
If symptoms are not managed throughout treatment there is a greater risk a patient will have problems coping. The combined burden from treatments and lack of physical activity can cause de-conditioning, which can further exacerbate fatigue and lead to a longer road to recovery. Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists can help patients overcome the significant physical and functional impairments suffered after cancer surgery and treatments that act as major barriers to resuming physical activity.
Opportunities for physiotherapists to screen for and treat impairments in cancer patients begin shortly after diagnosis and continue even years after the completion of cancer treatment. Our care continuum includes prehabilitation (interventions designed to increase function prior to surgery or treatment), rehabilitation during acute cancer care, rehabilitation after acute cancer care and rehabilitation of patients with cancer as a chronic condition.
The thought of exercise can be overwhelming to people affected cancer, but a well-designed exercise program may help them feel better physically and mentally, and it may also decrease the risk of further disease. Numerous studies show that being physically active appears to improve survival and quality of life. Patients are at increased risk of osteoporosis, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, functional decline and cancer recurrence. My work with this population, as well as published research, confirms that exercise helps to mitigate the side effects of cancer treatment and surgery.
Physiotherapy rehabilitation services can help patients:
Cancer Rehabilitation is very rewarding work for physiotherapists to be involved in and you can truly make a big difference to peoples’ lives.
Cancer patients endure a huge amount and their journey is long and uncertain. I have been privileged to meet many inspiring people thorough my work and observe their strength and uncommon wisdom. It is not simply that they see the big picture, if you spend long enough with them they help you see it too.
To find out more about Cancer Rehabilitation Education for Physiotherapists email email@example.com
Applications for 2018 certification courses are now open.
Written by Lou James Founder of the PINC and STEEL and Next Steps Cancer Rehabilitation programmes, AMP scholarship Ambassador.