Physical Therapy and the C Word- The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Cancer Patients

| Live Your Life

According to 2015-2017 data from the National Cancer Institute, approximately 39.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Cancer can occur in all age groups; however, about 60% of cancers occur in people 65 years of age or older. Chances are high that we either know of someone or have been diagnosed with cancer ourselves. Common cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Side effects from these treatments include neutropenia (a decline in neutrophils which are white blood cells), lymphedema (swelling from the build-up of fluid called lymph in the lymphatic system), hair loss, nausea and vomiting, and pain. The fight against cancer is difficult and the side effects from treatment do not make the journey any easier. The good news is physical therapy can help! Physical therapy can help improve many cancer-related problems through the creation of an individualized treatment program. The following are ways physical therapists can help you or a loved one on their cancer journey:

  1. Lymphedema Treatment: As a result of cancer treatment, a cancer patient can experience swelling in their arms and legs called lymphedema. Physical therapists can become certified to manually drain lymphatic fluid from your extremities. They can prescribe exercises to assist with the swelling and help prevent future build-up by fitting you with compression devices.   
  2. Manual Therapy: Manual therapy is when physical therapists use their hands to improve mobility in your joints and reduce pain through massage, manipulations, and mobilizations. Furthermore, can help manage your post-surgical scars. Physical therapists can watch for infection and improve the mobility and flexibility of the scar with gentle massage.
  3. Pelvic Health Management: Constipation, incontinence, and pelvic pain are all possible side effects of certain cancer treatments. Depending on the cause of incontinence, constipation, and pelvic pain, physical therapists will prescribe exercises that strengthen, stretch or re-train muscles located in your pelvic floor.

Cancer may not be treatable by physical therapists, but certain symptoms and side effects are! Physical therapists can improve your or your loved one’s cancer journey by increasing comfort and maintaining mobility during and after cancer treatments. If you need a physical therapist you can trust, contact Live Your Life Minnesota or Live Your Life Florida today!


“Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute, Accessed 31 May 2023.

Estapé, Tania. “Cancer in the Elderly: Challenges and Barriers.” Asia-Pacific journal of oncology nursing vol. 5,1 (2018): 40-42. doi:10.4103/apjon.apjon_52_17

“Side Effects of Cancer Treatment.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 May 2023,

“Physical Therapy for Cancer Patients.” Duke Health, Accessed 31 May 2023.

“GUIDE: Physical Therapy Guide to Cancer.” Choose PT, 5 Oct. 2020,

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