A person’s well-being is dependent on many factors, such as; the control of symptoms, level of independence, functional ability, ability to communicate, psychological and emotional state, degree of self confidence and the ability to cope.
Physiotherapists, as rehabilitation practitioners, aim to maximise independence and dignity and reduce the extent to which limiting illnesses interfere with an individual’s quality of life. Physiotherapy offers patients and their carers, the opportunity to develop coping skills and strategies that can assist in managing a changing physical status. Physiotherapists encourage patients in developing a constructive approach to living with illness and/or the effects of treatment.
Cancer-Related Fatigue (CRF) is recognised as one of the most common and distressing symptoms of cancer. CRF impacts on the functional ability of patients. Physiotherapists have a key role in screening patients for fatigue, assessing current activity levels and providing exercise advice or initiating exercise programmes with patients. Exercise prescriptions are designed based on patients’ unique medical characteristics and associated anticancer treatments and side effects.
It is important for cancer patients and survivors to maintain a basic fitness level both during and after their treatment. Many studies have demonstrated the physical and psychological benefits of well designed exercise programmes. Exercise can help combat the many side-effects of cancer treatments and help patients improve their quality of life. Be sure that you are advised on a suitable exercise programme and that progress is monitored. Goals should be identified for the patient to work towards and include regular assessment and review.
The essential components of a physiotherapy assessment include a description of the pain, responses to the pain and the impact of pain on both patient and care-givers. It is essential to consider the main functional restrictions the patient experiences and to focus on what the patient identifies as the main goals of management. Therapeutic exercise, graded and purposeful activity, postural re-education, massage and soft tissue mobilisation can all help with the ease and management of pain. Simple heat and cold packs are also a good way of managing aches and pain.
Breathlessness can be a common symptom in advanced cancers. The symptom is often poorly controlled, causing significant distress to patients, carers and families. Physiotherapists working within the field of Cancer Care are able to offer comprehensive assessment and advice regarding the management of many different symptoms both in the acute and primary care setting.