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