June 6th was National Cancer Survivors Day

National Cancer Survivors Day (June 6, 2021)

Physical therapy has an integral role in optimizing the quality of life for cancer survivors.  It is estimated that as of January 2016, 15.5 million children and adults are living with a history of cancer and according to the American Cancer Society that number is expected to grow to 20.3 million by 2026.   Individuals with cancer or who have undergone cancer treatments can have a whole host of symptoms ranging from pain and fatigue to cardiovascular issues, neuropathy, bone fragility, and lean mass loss.  Physical therapy can be critical to help maintain an individual’s functional performance, decrease the duration and prevent the progression of deconditioning. 

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network endorses the use of a moderate-intensity exercise program to improve the functional capacity and activity tolerance of cancer survivors.  Exercise can help reduce cancer-related fatigue and assist with chronic pain management.  Movement-based exercises and short bouts of low-intensity exercise with gradual progression are vital to enhancing activity tolerance and reducing cancer-related fatigue.  Cancer survivors who received neurotoxic agents during treatments can develop neuropathy, which could impact their balance and increase their overall fall risk.  A physical therapist can perform functional testing and evaluation to determine an individual’s baseline status and fall risk to develop a comprehensive program that incorporates strengthening, balance, and endurance activities.  Exercise has a positive impact on almost all persistent cancer treatment impairments.  


Jen Buono, PT, DPT

Want to Stay Healthy? Move More.

COVID has certainly made the importance of health very clear and we have all seen how quickly things can change with an illness. While COVID is currently front and center in most people's thoughts, it isn't the only thing out there that can change your life. Heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and cancer can all be devastating too.

Movement offers a defense

If you're looking to be more resilient and defend against these things, physical activity can do it. The dangers of being sedentary are well known and documented in the research. Excessive sitting and sedentary time have even been called the new smoking. For many of us, sitting and being inactive is part of our jobs. However, research has shown that getting in enough movement can counteract the negative effects of being sedentary.

A large study done in the U.K. found no association between the amount of time people spent sedentary and their chances of illness. But the authors didn't conclude that being sedentary is OK. Instead, they felt their findings were likely "attributable to a protective effect of the high volumes of daily walking." The study was conducted in London, where people tend to spend much more time walking or standing than average. The people in the study had daily walking times that were over double the average amount reported in the U.K.

Physical Therapists Are Unequaled Experts in Human Movement

While walking was the activity in this particular study, other research has shown that all kinds of movement can help protect your health. If you're looking to get those protective benefits for yourself you could choose to walk, bike, lift weights, dance, or garden. If you're not moving as much or as well as you'd like, see your physical therapist. PTs are the most qualified professionals on the planet to help you move better and allow you to stay healthy and enjoy life. From designing a program to get you started or moving more to help you recover from an injury, your PT is the right person to look to for help.

Can your PT make you more resilient to disease? The evidence says yes!

People usually see a physical therapist for pain or loss of function. Think of the person who has back pain, the injured athlete or the person who's had a stroke. They all want to improve how they move and complete tasks. Now, there is good reason to wonder if physical therapists will start seeing more people who are not in pain or having difficulty moving. Why would these people come to a PT? To improve their overall health and wellness.

There is strong evidence suggesting that movement is a valuable predictor of future health and resilience against disease. Physical therapists are movement specialists, so taking advantage of their expertise makes sense if your goal is to become healthier and live longer.

Here are some examples of the power of movement when it comes to predicting future health:

Gait Velocity
Gait velocity is how fast you walk. Studies have shown that if your typical walking speed is over 1 m/s or 3.3 ft/s, you're likely able to complete typical daily activities independently. You're also less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to have adverse events like falls. If you'd like to test yourself, measure out a straight, flat course to walk between 10' and 30' long. You'll also need 5' or so at the beginning and the end for acceleration and deceleration. Walk the course at your typical speed and divide the length of the course by how long it took you to walk it (distance/time). That's your gait velocity.

Get On and Off the Floor
A series of studies suggest that if you can go from standing to sitting on the floor and back to standing without using your hands, you're a lot less likely to die than someone who can't. It's called the sitting-rising test.

Here's how it works: You start standing, and without support, you sit down on the floor, then stand back up. You start with a score of 10. Every time you put a hand, knee, forearm, or the side of your leg on the floor you lose 1 point. Putting a hand on your knee or thigh to help also costs a point. In a sample of
over 2,000 people, they found that scoring less than 8 points made you twice as likely to die in the next 6 years when compared to people who scored higher. Score 3 or less and you're 5 times more likely to die in the same period. Overall, each point in the test is worth a 21% decrease in mortality from all causes.
Notice that both gait velocity and the sitting-rising test aren't specific to any one thing. The risk of hospitalization in the gait velocity studies was hospitalization for any reason. Death in the sitting-rising studies was death from anything. So while we know that exercise and a healthy lifestyle reduce your risk of specific diseases like heart disease or diabetes, it appears that being able to move may provide much more wide-ranging protection than we previously thought.



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