The role of physiotherapy in cancer treatment

There are many different types of cancers and many different treatment approaches; as such patients experience many different symptoms from their individual cancers and treatments. A very common symptom of cancer and the treatment thereof is CRF: Cancer-Related Fatigue. Other symptoms include oedema, general body pains and aches, weakness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, depression, loss of balance and coordination, and reduced mobility. Cancer can be a very distressing experience for patients; many patients find their quality of life negatively impacted and their ability to independently complete their activities of daily living limited. Physiotherapy holistically supports patients in maintaining their quality of life and improving their ability to complete their usual activities independently.  

What role does physiotherapy play?

Physiotherapy has been shown to be very successful in treating CRF, as well as beneficial in relieving many other cancer-related symptoms. Physiotherapy can assist in both preventing and treating short- and long-term side effects of treatment, as well as preventing permanent disability. The overall goal of physiotherapy is to improve functional independence and reduce pain and fatigue.

What will the physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapy treatment may include lymphedema treatment, PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation), myofascial release, scar tissue massage and exercises. The physiotherapist will guide and educate their patient on energy-conservation techniques, relaxation techniques, pain relief techniques, and techniques to improve sleep.

A physiotherapist is qualified to assess each individual patient and their condition in order to put together a treatment plan that includes manual therapies (such as lymphedema treatment, myofascial release, PNF) and exercises for mobility and strengthening. They may suggest the patient join a Pilates class, as this is a low-impact form of exercise that has been shown to have positive impact on mobility, strength and endurance. They will educate the patient on how best to manage your condition, conserve energy and practice relaxation techniques. 

What is the benefit of exercise?

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for one’s overall physical and mental health. Increasing physical activity levels will improve a patient’s general health and even improve the outcome of the patient undergoing treatment currently, and reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence in a patient in remission. Exercise has even been showed to reduce the risk of some types of cancer altogether. 


Physiotherapy can be an incredibly important and beneficial part of holistic management of cancer and related symptoms. If you are suffering from cancer or cancer-related symptoms we advise that you seek a physiotherapist to assist in your management of the symptoms. 


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