cancer, rehabilitation, pilates

Cancer diagnosis – how Physio can help with recovery

Cancer rehabilitation is a relatively new area of Physiotherapy and one that I have been fortunate enough to undergo post-graduate training in. As an increasing number of people are treated for various forms of cancer, the need for Physiotherapy-based rehabilitation has become very apparent.


Who can benefit?

The majority of clients (but certainly not limited to) that I’ve treated have had breast cancer. Clients have often had breast surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy as part of their medical treatment. These women can be left with secondary issues that, if left unaddressed, can cause further pain/discomfort and functional limitations. Some examples of such secondary issues include:

  • poor shoulder range of movement
  • lymphoedema
  • loss of muscle tone/strength
  • lowered bone density
  • reduced cardiovascular fitness
  • poor posture
  • fatigue

I can work with clients who are at any stage of their cancer journey. From first diagnosed, during treatment, post-treatment/post-operative, right through to clients who have achieved full cancer remission.


What does treatment involve?

Physiotherapy-based cancer rehabilitation may involve a combination of hands-on treatment and exercise prescription. Exercise programs may utilise our clinical exercise studio or involve creating a home program for the patient. Fatigue management and breathing re-education are also factors included in the rehabilitation process.


Case Study

Mrs A presented to PMPP for cancer rehabilitation in February 2019 following a breast cancer diagnosis in September 2018. She had had a lumpectomy (a small breast lump removed), then a mastectomy (removal of the whole breast) and an axillary node dissection (removal of lymph nodes in the armpit). Mrs A started chemotherapy late 2018, has recently commenced radiation therapy and will undergo hormone therapy soon. 


Upon initial assessment, Mrs A complained of pain and tightness along the surgical sites. She had poor shoulder range of movement and neck pain due to altered posture following her medical treatment. She also had several significant functional impairments. These included difficulty with self-care (brushing hair, dressing etc) and reaching up into cupboards. Mrs A was suffering from fatigue and was not sure what physical exercise she was able to safely partake in during her chemotherapy. 


Mrs A’s treatment included manual therapy involving neck mobilisation, soft tissue work, and release of tight shoulder muscles. I also provided her with a gentle home exercise program. This included safe post-operative stretches to prevent scar tissue adhesions and postural/breathing education. Mrs A kept a fatigue/energy diary by which she recorded her daily activity and the impact on her fatigue score, which she found very helpful for planning her days. 


Mrs A has since progressed onto clinical exercise using our reformer machines. This has provided her with a safe and effective way to maintain her strength and fitness. It also allows her to keep her crucial energy reserves for her medical appointments. Mrs A has been an inspiration to work with. Hopefully her story helps others to see just how beneficial Physiotherapy can be for cancer rehabilitation. 

I am passionate about helping cancer survivors! I would love the opportunity to speak to anyone considering cancer rehabilitation as part of their recovery. Please get in touch with me for further information

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