With advancement in technology and healthcare science, the way we are treating cancer is ever evolving. As we shift to comprehensive wellness – treating the whole person rather than the disease – cancer survivorship stays on an uphill climb, as does patient quality of life. Current research has been exploring methods to improve overall physiological health, independence, emotional well-being, and quality of life in both patients with active cancer and survivors, with promising results using exercise and physical activity.
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a side effect of the disease that affects 70-100% of patients. Compared to fatigue in a healthy individual, CRF is more severe, significantly more debilitating, does not necessarily resolve with rest, and does not always subside after chemotherapy and radiation.
For patients with CRF, the idea of increasing activity can often discourage them from physical therapy as part of their healing process. However, activity is exactly what will get them on the road to recovery. An exercise program prescribed by a physical therapist can reduce the feeling of fatigue, and has been shown to be safe and effective in cancer survivors as well as patients still in chemotherapy.
As patients lose their independence and rely on others, overwhelming feelings of burden can easily take over. This can lead to depression and a lowered quality of life. Rehabilitation can combat these feelings by helping patients regain some of their independence. Therapists might not be able to decrease the days per week in chemo, or the number of pills consumed each morning – but they can help patients gain mobility. Giving patients back some of their independence makes them less reliant on others, and can drastically increase their desire to live – which also improves their overall wellbeing.
Quigley, PT, DPT, Kerry. “Long-lasting Benefits of Cancer Rehabilitation Restoring strength and endurance in the oncology population.” Advance Healthcare Network. N.p., 8 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.