Many people do not realize that physical therapy is an important part of cancer treatment, especially as it relates to quality of life during and after treatment. Physical therapy can help patients with cancer overcome pain, weakness and fatigue, as well as other physical changes as a result of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Physical therapy is commonly a part of the treatment plan for those diagnosed with breast cancer because of issues related to shoulder mobility and pain. Women who begin a post mastectomy physical therapy program within days of surgery have been proven to have a higher quality of life than those who do not.However, treatments for other types of cancer often find physical therapy under-prescribed – not because it isn’t beneficial, it’s often just overlooked.

A common side effect of lymph node removal, and radiation is lymphedema. This swelling occurs from a backup of lymph fluid under the skin and can occur weeks or years after surgery. The best way to prevent a lymphedema flare-up is to get educated about signs and symptoms, risk reduction activities, and begin a prescribed exercise routine. By working with a physical therapist that specializes in lymphedema and cancer rehab, treatment is personalized to your individual needs and functional goals. If you already have an exercise regimen, the physical therapist can also recommend exercise modifications that will enable you to optimize your physical condition.

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to discuss the addition of physical therapy with your doctor as early as possible. Together, a plan can be made not only to get you on the road to recovery, but will have you back to enjoying life as quickly as possible.

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