As research progresses and treatment options improve, many more people are now surviving cancer diagnoses.
This is a wonderful thing, however a diagnosis of cancer and its ensuing treatment is often tough both physically and mentally hence many people are now living with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.
There are many types of cancer and thus many medical treatment options including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and medication management, all of which can have varying side effects on individual people.
Such side effects can include:
- Reduced physical function
- Persistent pain
- Restricted joint mobility and flexibility
- Weight gain
- Altered mood, anxiety and depression
- Reduced general fitness
- Reduced strength
- Increased risk of osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions
We are all well aware of the multitude of health benefits to come from exercise in the general population.
For people living with cancer, these same benefits apply, along with many more.
Not only has exercise now definitively been shown to be safe in this population (when appropriately prescribed), but there is also a strong and growing body of evidence to support the role of exercise and rehabilitation in reducing the impact of cancer related symptoms and improving quality of life.
Exercise has further been show to reduce cancer recurrence risk by up to 35% along with significant improvements in life expectancy.
A recent study demonstrated up to 50% reduced risk of cancer related death in people doing at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week after diagnosis.
Commonly people are thrown into a whirlwind of hospitals, doctors and treatments after what is often a shock diagnosis.
The benefits of physiotherapy rehab and exercise are well appreciated after other injuries and illnesses such as knee replacements or stroke, but they are yet to be fully recognized or accessed by people within the community who have undergone cancer treatment.
The more people who are aware of physiotherapy cancer rehab programs, the more people can benefit.
It used to be thought that people recovering from and undergoing cancer treatment simply needed to rest in order to recover.
We now however have guidelines around which types and amounts of exercise are most beneficial.
One of the most important things though is for an individual to consult with a professional (e.g. physiotherapist) who has had oncology specific rehab training to make sure that their prescription of exercise, as with any other form of treatment or medication is tailored to the person to ensure the best result and the lowest risk.
While further improvement and access are needed, positively- more and more doctors and surgeons within the oncology world are now recognizing the significant benefits that patients stand to gain from exercise rehab at all stages of their cancer journey and are thus referring to cancer rehab physiotherapists.
A patient can self refer to the PINC program though as medical referral is not compulsory.
Prahran Sports Medicine offers individualized PINC cancer physiotherapy for women who have had a cancer diagnosis.
These sessions vary depending on the needs of the individual woman, her type of cancer, the treatment undertaken, her residual symptoms and her goals.
Some examples of things that can be addressed include:
- Regaining shoulder mobility with stretches and massage in the early stages post mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction
- Scar and pain management following other surgical procedures eg. Following lung cancer or head and neck cancer surgeries
- Managing fatigue using tailored exercise and education while undergoing chemotherapy or immunotherapy eg. For melanoma
- Using exercise to reduce joint aches and pains that can arise with ongoing hormonal medication. This can allow a woman to tolerate continuing her hormone medication
- Maintaining physical function with longer term metastatic bone disease
- Building up fitness and strength prior to upcoming surgery eg for bowel cancer
- Building back to fitness/strength goals once cancer treatment has been completed, at any timepoint eg. After leukaemia or gynaecological cancer
- Helping to improve confidence, body image and stress relief with breathing techniques, individualized exercise and education around how to understand and manage specific symptoms
- Improve swelling and lymphoedema symptoms
For more information or to book an initial assessment, please call the clinic or have a look at the PINC website.
Many people are often eligible for Medicare rebates too – talk to your GP for more information.
Rhiarna Hill is an APA Titled Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist. She works at Lifecare Prahran Sports Medicine on Tuesday and Thursday.
The clinic is close to suburbs including Malvern, South Yarra, Toorak, Armadale, St Kilda East, Caulfield, Richmond and Hawthorn, and has early and late appointments for all your Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy needs.