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Physical therapy may help with side effects of cancer treatments

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have some type of cancer in his/her lifetime. As you can see by this statistic many people are affected by cancer. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells caused by multiple changes in the gene expression, leading to a poorly regulated balance of cell rapid reproduction and cell death, which increases cells that can invade tissues and disperse to numerous sites. Researchers have come up with many ways to attempt to treat cancer such as: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Often doctors use physical therapy as way to help patients cope with the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Below are just a few examples.

Reduce Fatigue:
Physical therapists may look at a daily log of activities and how they make you feel throughout the day. From that, they will be able to find ways to help modify activities to improve function and energy conservation techniques during activities of daily living. This may consist of strengthening, balance, and range of motion exercises, or even the possible use of an assistive device. Aerobic exercises are also another form of activity that increases aerobic capacity, boosts energy, and optimizes the body's way of healing. According to the authors of a recent meta-analysis, Comparison of Pharmaceutical, Psychological, and Exercise Treatments for Cancer-Related Fatigue A Meta-analysis, "Our results demonstrate that exercise, psychological, and exercise plus psychological interventions are effective improving CRF [Cancer-Related Fatigue] during and after primary treatment, whereas pharmaceutical interventions, as studied to date, are not."

Maintain Strength and Balance:
"If you don’t use it, you lose it." This popular phrase holds true when it comes to muscle strength. A common side effect of cancer/cancer treatments is fatigue. People may be bedridden for days, weeks, or even months. Physical therapists are there to help keep high fall risk patients moving and active to keep from muscle wasting. Physical therapists are also able to assist with possible nerve damage that may occur.

Reduce Stress and Brain Fog:
Exercise has immediate and long lasting effects as it releases "feel good" endorphins in your brain. It may give a relaxation effect as it takes your mind off of outside stressors improving your overall mood. It may also increase confidence and mind clarity, while lowering symptoms of depression and anxiety. It may also improve quality of sleep leaving you more refreshed and ready to take on the next day.

Reduce Lymphedema and Swelling:
There are many physical therapy techniques to help reduce swelling such as: wraps, compression garments, taping, compression sleeves, proper elevation and exercises. Some physical therapists are specially certified in treatment of lymphedema and special massage techniques for it as well.

Reduce Bone Density Loss:
Some cancer treatments can make changes in bone density, and in return create fractures. Specific exercises help keep bones healthy and strong. Physical therapists will evaluate you to decide which are most appropriate.

Participating in physical therapy can be a great alternative to some medications and may improve your quality of life before, during, and after cancer treatment. If you are suffering from the side effects of cancer we are here to support you through the journey.

References to this article may be found at MoveForwardPT.com

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