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Physical Therapists and Cancer Care

Posted 9/28/2014

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  In an ideal world, every woman having breast cancer surgery would have at least a consultation with a physical therapist. In a totally ideal world, the opportunity for that introduction, especially for women having a mastectomy with or without reconstruction, would happen before surgery. My dear friend and colleague, Nancy Roberge, DPT from Chestnut Hill Physical Therapy Associates made a huge difference in my recovery from a mastectomy by showing me some exercises to do before surgery. There were others, of course, for afterwards, but those stretches and lifts made a difference and made a psychological difference, too, as they gave me something positive to do for myself.

  Many women seek PT after breast cancer surgery when they have aches and pains or limited range of motion or, in some bad cases, frozen shoulders. It is always helpful, but it likely could have avoided some of these problems if initiated sooner. PT plays a role, or should play a role, in the care of many cancers, and it is heartening to know there is more attention being made to these specialists.

  From Cancer Net: Spotlight On: Physical Therapists in Oncology

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you will interact with a number of different members of the health care team at various times during treatment. When you walk into a doctor’s office, hospital, or cancer center, you may encounter nurses, physician assistants, social workers, doctors—the list goes on. In this series, we talk with some of these health care professionals to learn more about their jobs and the role they play in providing high-quality cancer care.

Advances in treatment have helped more people live longer after being diagnosed with cancer. However, many people experience a decrease in their quality of life both during and after treatment. Physical therapists play a unique role in the cancer care team because they are able to address the functional challenges that may develop as a result of cancer and cancer treatment. Physical therapists evaluate these issues throughout the cancer experience and provide effective treatment strategies to return a person to their previous level of physical function.

To better understand the role physical therapists play in the cancer care team, Sharlynn Tuohy, PT, DPT, MBA, Director of Rehabilitation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), and Jean Kotkiewicz, PT, DPT, CLT, Supervisor, Inpatient PT at MSKCC, graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions.


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