Keep moving after cancer treatment is key message

Exercise and keep moving, regardless of cancer diagnosis, was the clear message in the WCPT2019 session on cancer survivor rehabilitation.

Ann Newstead, from the USA, showcased her research into the benefits of physical activity for cancer survivors and the evidence is very clear about the improvements in strength, balance, recovery, and stamina.

Falls are the key issue to tackle for people post-treatment for cancer as they are more likely to fall and suffer trauma. Because of this, the need for neuromotor and balance testing is crucial and Ann presented several case studies to prove her point. She recommended delegates visit the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab to find out more about different methods of testing.

In her future research, Ann would like to like to identify which functional measures predict balance outcomes, the effects of balance intervention on people with cancer after early diagnosis, and the optimal physical activity dosages for functional improvement. Her last question was how can physical therapists be an integral part of the team to prevent cancer and enhance outcomes and quality of life?

Stephen Morris, from the USA, exposed the cost to individuals of not exercising post-treatment and added that exercise can help reduce the number, severity and side-effects of cancer treatment. He also emphasised that peak muscle power is a more influential predictor of functional performance in older adults compared to muscle strength.

Jacqueline Drouin, from the USA, presented on the considerations for exercise testing, prescription and training outcomes for people affected by cancer. She pointed out that tumours block muscle growth and that there are trials ongoing for the production of medication to counteract this. Post-cancer treatment, muscle growth is very important. Various cardiovascular studies on the difference between men and women affected by cancer informed delegates on what could be achieved and where the gaps are in terms of ability.

Caroline Speksnijder, from the Netherlands, gave delegates the benefit of her specialism of working with people affected by head and neck cancer and the unique challenges they face. Problems with speech, chewing, swallowing and typically low levels of exercise pre-diagnosis create specific issues for physical therapists. Cases of head and neck cancer are increasing year-on-year with more men than women being diagnosed.

It is clear that whatever the challenges people face after treatment for cancer, physical therapists have a crucial role to play in helping them maintain a quality of life.

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