Heartland can help with the side effects of cancer treatment

Written by by Jim Berger. Posted in October

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so this month’s article is in support of all the efforts being made throughout the nation related to cancer.


Cancer has affected almost every adult in the US. This statement is true in the respect that each of us knows someone who has or had cancer. Many of us have a loved one, a friend, or a casual acquaintance that has been diagnosed with some form of cancer.

Individuals going through treatment experience many challenges, one being fatigue and weakness. The side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and medication often include reduced energy levels, fatigue, neuropathy, and reduction in self-esteem. An oncology nurse with one of the local clinics stated, “Fatigue is a significant factor we are seeing in 90% of our patients.”

We all know medical management is critical and the main priority, while side effects, such as fatigue, are lower on the list of key areas to address. The question is, who can help address cancer patients’ low energy level, fatigue, and diminished self-esteem? Physical therapy can have a positive impact on individuals as they go through this journey.

Studies have shown that the appropriate amount and type of exercise can be beneficial for those experiencing cancer and cancer-related fatigue in all stages of the recovery process. This can lead to improved strength, endurance, and functioning; increased independence; and decreased anxiety, depression, and pain.

The benefits and goal of physical therapy are to improve function, strength, endurance, self-esteem, and physical independence. Heartland Rehabilitation Services, Outpatient Physical and Occupational Therapy, offers at our clinics a Cancer Related Fatigue (CRF) program.

This program includes a comprehensive consultation including posture, gait, strength, and sensation analysis along with identifying fatigue, activity, and pain levels. A treatment plan is established by the patient and clinician together. The treatment intervention will focus on stretching, breathing, low to moderate aerobic exercise, and strength training. Individuals who have had surgery may also experience pain and tightness at the surgical site due to scar tissue buildup. Skin integrity and scar tissue management is another area that Heartland clinicians address. Individuals involved in the program progress at their own pace and tolerance.

Heartland sees individuals at varying times in the cancer-treatment journey: pre-operatively, post-operatively, during chemo and radiation, after completion of treatment, and even years later. Individuals who exercise and move as long as they possibly can will experience a positive impact on their self-image as well as positive motivation, especially as energy levels change.❦

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