“If the effects of exercise could be encapsulated in a pill, it would be prescribed to every cancer patient worldwide and viewed as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.” – Prof. Cormie.

Hear from Hannah Leach, Specialised Cancer Physiotherapist, on the benefits of Oncology Physiotherapy.

What is Oncology Physiotherapy?

When I tell people, I am an oncology physiotherapist, I often get asked: “why would someone with cancer need physiotherapy?” This is the part where I take great joy in myth‐busting the assumption physiotherapy must mean massaging sportspersons (although, I did this earlier on in my career!).

Oncology is a hugely important area of physiotherapy, with recognition starting to snowball in recent years. Someone living with and beyond cancer may need physiotherapy support to help with:

  • Recovery following surgery
  • Returning to exercise safely
  • Improving the range of movement in a specific joint following treatment
  • Improving muscle strength following treatment
  • Managing low energy levels
  • Managing breathlessness
  • Managing pain with non‐pharmacological interventions
  • Managing nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Lymphoedema prevention and management

The above issues can have a huge impact on the most important things in your life – your independence, your relationships, your physical activity, your work and your mental health.

Research from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, found that keeping physically active significantly reduces the risk of occurrence across 13 different cancer types: oesophageal, liver, lung, kidney, stomach, endometrial, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, colon, head and neck, rectal, bladder and breast.

We now have proof that physical activity should sit as an essential component of cancer prevention and control, for particular cancers. This is amazing news because exercise is free and accessible to everyone with the right guidance and support. A physiotherapist will be able to help you manage the physical side effects of cancer and support you to gain the boundless benefits of exercise. 

Why Online Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists are experts of the human body and the way it functions. We look and we listen to collect the information we need to unpick the problem and start planning the solution. With the technology available at everyone’s fingertips, this can be done easily over video‐consultation!

In most cases, you will be prescribed with a personalised exercise programme, as well as exercise and lifestyle advice. I also love to educate people on their problem, to empower them and give them more control. Combine this with support, encouragement and reassurance and you will have an effective physiotherapy programme that you can start as soon as you hang up your video‐call.

Sometimes, we can spend lots of time providing hands-on treatments which gives short-term relief. Online physiotherapy takes this option away, but this means we can get straight to solving the problem with long-term solutions! In situations hands‐on treatment may be needed, we will ensure you get the best possible care by directing you to someone who can help.

Top Five Reasons to try Online Physiotherapy

1) It is accessible to everyone

This was one of the main reasons that inspired me to set up strongerthan online physiotherapy.

Across the UK, there is a huge difference between which cancer services are available in which area – if any! By creating an online physiotherapy service, that anyone with a computer or smartphone can access, there are more options for those needing expert support.

Only 30% of those needing physiotherapy during cancer, access the support they need. By being able to reach specialised physiotherapy from home, you can get the right advice, at the right time, from the right people.

2) It can save you precious time

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you will have lots (and lots!) of appointments. You will meet with GPs, oncologists, nurses, surgeons, radiographers, radiotherapists, speech and language therapists, dieticians… the list goes on! Now add in your job, your family, your friends and your life in general – your spare time is invaluable.

There is also a time cost that comes with appointments: time spent in traffic jams, afternoons taken off work, time sat in waiting rooms…

Now imagine, sitting on your sofa with a cup of tea, flipping open your laptop and being at your physiotherapy appointment!

3) It can save you money

The cost of a private physiotherapy appointment can be anything up to £100. Prices can often be higher in certain areas in the UK or for physiotherapists with specialist knowledge, such as oncology.

In addition, the financial cost of travelling to and from appointments can really add up!

Online physiotherapy does not require a physical space and therefore prices can be less, for the same expert, high-quality advice. You can also save the pennies and pounds on travel, as you won’t need to leave your house. 

4) It reduces your risk of infection

This is so important! During cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, you will be advised to reduce your exposure to infection risks. Additional trips to the hospital or to a clinic may cause additional worry and anxiety, for those going through treatment.

Being able to access expert advice from your own home, is a great way of reducing unnecessary trips and your risk of picking up any infections on the way.

5) It offers you consistency

Due to different working patterns and high turn‐over within our health‐care systems, you may find yourself meeting multiple physiotherapists during your treatment. It can feel so frustrating when you meet a health‐care professional that you feel understands you and helps you – and then not see them again!

With online physiotherapy, you will see the same physiotherapist, allowing you to build good communication and trust. Some research even shows people feel more likely to open up about sensitive issues to health‐care professionals by video‐consultation, compared with face‐to‐face appointments.