Physiotherapy after a cancer diagnosis in London and Essex

Physiotherapy after a cancer diagnosis in London and Essex

Monday 15th January 2024
Gemma B

Physiotherapy after a cancer diagnosis in London and Essex

What is cancer?

The term "Cancer" is a complex and broad term used to describe uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells within the body. These abnormal cells can invade and destroy tissues and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

There are over 200 different types of cancer. Cancer can develop in any part of the body, each has its own unique characteristics, symptoms and treatment options.

Spotting signs of cancer

Early detection and treatment is crucial in the management of cancer. Spotting cancer at an early stage saves lives. Health professionals within most services now screen for signs of cancer. If you spot anything that isn't right for you- Get it checked.

Reducing your risks of cancer

Adopting certain lifestyle behaviours and choices, may help reduce your chance of developing cancer. Here are some general recommendations:

Quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables and limiting your intake of processed meats and sugary foods. You can also protect your skin from the sun, limit alcohol intake and get vaccinated, as certain infections increase the risk of associated cancer. Attending regular screening and check-ups is also recommended. For cancer prevention 4-5 hours of moderate exercise is recommended per week.

Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment will vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, individual health as well as individual goals and preferences. Treatment often involves combining a number of treatments. Common treatments include: surgery, radiation therapy (High-energy radiation targets and destroys cells), chemotherapy (Oral or intravenous drug that kills or inhibits growth of cancer cells), immunotherapy (Stimulating the body to recognise and attack cells), targeted drug therapy (Drugs aiming to interfere with molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth), hormone therapy (blocks or inhibits hormones that encourage cancer growth), stem cell therapy
(Replaces damaged or destroyed bone marrow).

How can physiotherapy help cancer patiens?

Cancer treatments might leave an individual weak with decreased mobility, a personalised programme can help increase strength, flexibility, endurance and help regain independence. Functional training is likely to be beneficial for everyone having cancer treatment. This could include tasks such as completing the stairs.

Swelling of limbs can occur due to a compromised lymphatic system, tailored exercises, manual lymphatic drainage and compression therapy can help reduce swelling and improve lymphatic flow.

Energy conservation, prioritising tasks, pacing strategies and graded exercise can help improve overall energy levels.

Cancer related fatigue (CRF) is a complex but a common symptom for individuals with cancer. Individuals may find it helpful to consider the five P's of energy conservation:

• Plan

• Pace

• Priorities

• Posture

• Permission (should you do it, delay it, delegate it or dump it?)

Respiratory care may include breathing exercises, clearance techniques, manual techniques and air clearance devices.

Balance and coordination training may increase stability and reduce fall risk. Find our top tips reducing falls risk here.

Manual therapy, acupuncture, myofascial release, exercise and hot or cold therapy may also help relieve pain.

Physical Activity

If you have cancer, you should consult with your doctor prior to starting exercise. International guidelines say that it is safe to be active during cancer treatment and after.

The general guidelines currently recommend that that all adults should try to do at least one of the following ways of exercising:

• 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week; for example, 30 minutes 5 times per week

• 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week

All adults should also complete strength training, twice a week.

Physical activity has also been linked with reducing the recurrence of the same cancers. This amount of exercise, may initially be too much, so it is important an individual works with their healthcare team to tailor the level of exercise to them.

What cancers should precautions be taken with?

Bone density - Individuals need to understand their weight-bearing status if they have bone cancer, which can change based on the integrity of the bone. Some cancers for example breast, gynaecological or prostate cancer, are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis due to the treatment they have received. There may be an increased risk of a break, so you may be advised to consider lower impact activities. Hydrotherapy may be a helpful way to exercise, as the water reduces the weight of the body.

Being immune-compromised - Individuals with a low white blood cell count as well as those on immune-suppressing medication, are at an increased risk of infection. Individuals should be aware of the cleanliness of their environment. It may be advised to avoid busy public gyms and make hand washing a priority.

Low platelet and haemoglobin levels -Individuals may get fatigued and have a higher risk of internal bleeding. Contact sports and high impact sports should normally be avoided if blood counts are low.

Peripheral neuropathy - A tailored programme will likely be needed to avoid exacerbating symptoms. Also, a stationary biking is a good alternative to a high impact exercise such as running and allows a longer duration of activity prior to fatigue.

Certain surgeries- There can be restrictions after certain surgeries such as limiting lifting after bowel cancer removal.

If you have an implanted device, such as a feeding tube or catheter, it may be suggested that you either avoid or use a different device when swimming.

Wellbeing and mobility

If someone is not particularly active. It can help to start by making a few small changes. This may include getting off the bus one stop earlier or walking to the shops instead of driving. It is important to build up gradually. If you do too much, you may feel sore and tired the next few days.

You can start with chunking tasks followed by rest breaks. For example, chunking, mowing the lawn and ironing. Find activities you enjoy, as you are more likely to stick with it.

Booking an appointment

If you would like to find out more about Estuary Physios Oncology Service, please get in touch with us today and speak with one of our clinicians.

Helpful resources

NHS - Cancer

Macmillan Cancer Support

Cancer Reseach UK

Other conditions we treat:

Depending on the location of the cancer, will depend on the type of therapy you need. Our therapists have a broad range of backgrounds. For example, a brain tumour would require a Neurology Physiotherapist. Whereas, lung cancer would require a respiratory Physiotherapist. Here are some of the conditions we treat here at Estuary Physio:

Neuro Rehab

Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis

Chest and Breathing

If you would like to know more about Estuary Physio or speak to one of our clinicians, please contact us, or book an appointment using the button below.

Medical Review

The information on this page has been reviewed for accuracy by Barry Ford BSc MCSP, Physiotherapist