April 30, 2018
Shawn Paquette, PT, DPT, CSCS
Cancer Survivorship and Physical Therapy
A cancer diagnosis often results in a huge impact not just on a patient’s physical well-being, but also on other aspects of the patient’s wellness, such as their mental health, social interactions, and financial standing. It is a very stressful time in these patients’ lives. Between the onslaught of different doctors’ appointments and the uncertainty of their ultimate prognosis, it is not uncommon for these patients to have high stress and anxiety levels. While patients are being treated for their cancer, participation in physical therapy is probably not the first thing on their mind. However, there are many ways in which physical therapy can assist these patients to achieve better health and an improved quality of life.
One of the biggest complaints associated with a cancer diagnosis is cancer-related fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is defined as a “distressing, persistent, subjective sense of physical, emotional, and/or cognitive tiredness or exhaustion.” Up to 80% of all cancer survivors report experiencing cancer-related fatigue, and this side effect can persist for years even after treatment ends.
One of the best ways to combat cancer-related fatigue is through exercise. Though it may seem counterintuitive, exercise has the highest quality evidence for treating cancer-related fatigue. It is recommended that cancer survivors participate in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week, including 2-3 strength training sessions. Physical therapists are in a unique position to guide these patients through an individualized exercise program since they have a sound understanding of how the side effects of cancer and its associated treatments can affect a patient and how to modify their exercise program accordingly.
Though cancer-related fatigue is one of the biggest complaints associated with a cancer diagnosis, there are several other issues that may arise from cancer itself or its associated treatments. Some of the other medical issues commonly encountered after a cancer diagnosis include pain, joint or muscle stiffness, generalized weakness and deconditioning, and balance or gait impairments. All of these issues can be effectively addressed with physical therapy treatment and result in an improved quality of life for the patient.
If you are dealing with physical limitations as a result of cancer or cancer treatments and would like to be evaluated by one of our physical therapists, please give our office a call at 207-442-0325.
By Shawn Paquette, PT, DPT, CSCS
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Cancer-Related Fatigue. Version 1.2017. December 19, 2016.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Survivorship. Version 2.2016. September 27, 2016.