How Physical Rehab Can Help Recovery From Lung Cancer      

After Cancer Treatment
Print icon
By Ruth H. Satterberg
Occupational Therapist, Certified Lymphedema Therapist
Hospital of Central CT Cancer Institute

A lung cancer diagnosis can be extremely challenging. Lung cancer, different from breast cancer, often has more complications and challenges to overcome.

Evidence shows that physical and occupational therapy can be very helpful at all stages of the cancer journey by easing pain, increasing movement, decreasing stress  and improving quality of life. By the time you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, the average patient is already having other problems —  weakness, fatigue, difficulty breathing, pain and some difficulty with daily activities like getting in or out of the shower.

Studies also show that therapy can be helpful at each of the stages of cancer treatments.

Before Medical Treatment

By participating in an exercise program before any surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, you can boost your strength, energy, lung capacity and decrease stress. A therapist will recommend increased level of activity in general.

Ideas might include:

  • Walking daily.
  • Walking a little farther than before.
  • Walking more frequently.
  • Lifting weights to increase strength and endurance. With this help, your body’s systems get an extra boost in power in preparation for the challenges ahead.
  • Increasing participation in any enjoyable activity can also increase confidence, improve sleep and decrease anxieties.

One study shows  that participation in exercise and physical therapy can decrease the amount of time in the hospital.

During Medical Treatment

Handling schedules and dealing with fatigue can be difficult.  Physical therapy can help maintain strength and endurance, within the limits of your treatments.  Loss of motion from surgical procedures, scar tissue and pain can be addressed at this time. Discomfort and tightness can be relieved with gentle manual therapy techniques.

An occupational therapist can help with energy conservation techniques, and help you accomplish the most important and meaningful tasks in your day. Using adaptive equipment like a shower chair or grab bars can help you bathe safely.  A long-handled reacher to help with getting dressed can help maintain independence. There are many other adaptive utensils and techniques that can make life easier.

After Medical Treatment

The problems mentioned above might continue for many months after cancer treatments. The goal of therapy is to provide education about breathing techniques, stretching, postural training/correction, energy conservation tips, aerobic exercise guidelines and strength training guidelines to aid in the healing process.

Physical activity can help reduce risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and other health problems. It can also help to minimize the side effects of cancer treatment and surgery. Noninvasive manual therapy techniques are also helpful for lingering pain from surgical scars, alleviating pain and discomfort.

An exercise program should be gentle and progress slowly, especially if a patient has been inactive before the diagnosis.  It is wise to obtain medical clearance before starting an exercise program.

Ruth H. Satterberg is an occupational therapist and certified lymphedema therapist at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at the Hospital of Central Connecticut.

 


What's New

Fecal transplant

A Fecal Transplant? The Strange-But-True Weight-Loss Study

If the medications, shakes and diet plans don’t yield the weight loss results you want, the next step might be transplanting the stool of a thin person into your body. Sound far-fetched? Researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston recently proposed, based on their investigation into the workings of...

Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Fall Classic: Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Pumpkin anyone? It’s fall, which means it’s pumpkin season. Pumpkin is certainly an appropriate choice in a healthy diet. Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A, potassium, fiber and antioxidants like beta-carotene. One cup cooked is only 49 calories, with 12 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber and no fat....


Heart & Vascular Institute Has a New Home in the East

Because of the continued expansion of services, the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute has officially moved its Norwich office, formerly located on 164 Otrobando Ave., to a newly renovated 7,000-square-foot space at 111 Salem Turnpike in Norwich (the former Ames plaza).  The new center offers comprehensive and convenient outpatient...

EEE

Second EEE Death in State History As More Towns Report Infected Mosquitoes

The first human case of Eastern equine encephalitis of the season, only the second reported in Connecticut history, has produced a chorus of caution from public health officials, medical professions and local communities. The message: Protect yourself from mosquitoes, which transmit the disease, and limit outdoor activity in the twilight...

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention: When People Offering Help Actually Need It

Two recent high-profile suicide deaths of men who worked with those at-risk for suicide highlights the increased suicide rate for those who provide services and care. The importance or raising awareness in September, National Suicide Prevention Month, is highlighted by the deaths of Gregory Eells, the executive director of counseling...