The Role of Physical Therapy in Radiation Therapy

cancer scar tissue therapy

Radiation therapy is a common treatment option for various types of cancer, and while it targets cancerous cells, it can also affect surrounding healthy tissues, leading to side effects and complications. Physical therapy can play an essential role in the management and recovery of individuals undergoing cancer radiation therapy.

Physical therapy for cancer radiation therapy aims to address these side effects, improve quality of life, and enhance overall physical function. The specific interventions and goals may vary depending on the type of cancer, the location of radiation treatment, and the individual's overall health status.


How Physical Therapy Can Be Beneficial During and After Radiation Therapy:

  • Pain management: Radiation therapy can cause pain in the treated area. Physical therapists can use various techniques such as manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and modalities like heat or cold therapy to alleviate pain and improve mobility.
  • Range of motion and flexibility: Radiation therapy can lead to stiffness and limited range of motion in the treated area. Physical therapists can design exercises and stretching routines to maintain or restore flexibility and mobility.
  • Lymphedema management: Radiation therapy may disrupt the lymphatic system, leading to lymphedema, a condition characterized by swelling in the affected area. Physical therapists with expertise in lymphedema management can provide specialized care, including manual lymphatic drainage and compression therapy.
  • Muscle strength: Radiation therapy can cause muscle weakness in the treated region. Physical therapists can develop strength training programs to help patients regain muscle strength and function.
  • Posture and body mechanics: Radiation therapy side effects may affect posture and body mechanics. Physical therapists can assess and provide guidance on maintaining proper alignment and body mechanics to prevent further complications.
  • Fatigue management: Cancer radiation therapy often leads to fatigue. Physical therapists can develop exercise programs and energy conservation strategies to manage and combat fatigue.
  • Breathing exercises: In cases where radiation therapy affects the chest or respiratory system, physical therapists may provide breathing exercises and techniques to maintain lung function.
  • Balance and coordination: Depending on the area treated, radiation therapy can impact balance and coordination. Physical therapists can work on exercises to improve these aspects and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Scar management: Radiation therapy can cause skin changes and scarring. Physical therapists can use scar mobilization techniques and recommend skincare practices to optimize healing.

It is crucial for cancer patients to have an individualized physical therapy plan tailored to their specific needs and treatment side effects. Collaboration among the oncology team, radiation oncologist, and physical therapist is vital to ensure the best possible outcomes for the patient's rehabilitation and recovery process. Always consult with a healthcare professional, preferably a physical therapist with experience in cancer care, to determine the most suitable and effective physical therapy approach for a patient undergoing cancer radiation therapy.