After Cancer Treatment, Physical Therapy is Helpful

To reduce the effects of mesothelioma treatments on patients’ healthy cells, many doctors are now recommending physical therapy sessions, which can relieve and restore movement affected by cancer treatments even years after treatment has stopped.

Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are now recommending a system where oncologists join with physical therapists to create a “cancer rehab” program to help prevent long-term problems for their patients.

“A number of the common chemotherapeutic medicines will cause numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, or outright pain in the hands and feet,” adds Dr. Michael Stubblefield, Chief of the Cancer Rehab program. “That’s all because most cancer treatments don’t just kill the cancer. You also damage the healthy cells and tissue around it. That can lead to problems with strength and range of motion.”

Nancy Libby, who is currently receiving physical therapy to alleviate chronic swelling and pain from breast cancer surgery and reconstruction, agrees, stating, “So much of our culture is about being cancer-free and surviving but there’s a cost to it.”

The cancer rehabilitation program at Sloan-Kettering also includes a simulated kitchen and park to help cancer survivors deal with everyday experiences that may be difficult for them after treatment, like cooking or walking on an uneven surface.

While very few cancer treatment facilities have adopted rehab programs like the one in place at Sloan-Kettering, word is beginning to spread and more and more cancer patients are opting to add physical therapy to their treatment plans.