Advances in treatments have helped patients live longer following a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, many patients suffer from a lower quality of life during and following treatment. This is where physical therapy oncology comes into play.
PTs that work in oncology are able to successfully address the functional-based challenges that often follow a cancer diagnosis and the treatment that follow.
If you are a physical therapist and have an interest in working with patients that have been diagnosed with cancer, continue reading to learn about the unique role you will play.
The Focus on Body-Wide Functional Impairments
In the past, physical therapy was viewed as an intervention-based service that focused on stress, strains, and injuries received as a direct result of participating in sports-related activities.
Advancements in the profession and the expansion of the educational requirements and training now have physical therapists highly adept at dealing with a multitude of body-wide functional impairments.
These may be related to the lungs, heart, skin, nervous system, inner ear, and other components of the body.
If a patient has cancer – regardless of type or location – you have the ability to help them in numerous ways.
Methods of Assistance
The ability to undergo treatments and survive the diagnosis takes a lot of attention to function and the overall quality of life.
You can help patients in pre-habilitation, providing interventions while the patient is going through their treatments, and assist in maximizing function.
You can provide exercises that are designed to build strength, help patients overcome fatigue, reduce pain and discomfort, assist in maximizing the functionality of the body, and improve overall mobility.
Oncology-based physical therapists have the unique ability to help cancer patients through all of the stages of their care.
As a PT in this field, you have the ability to provide comprehensive assessments and determine the best type of interventions that a patient requires. The role of a physical therapist with cancer patients is a highly supportive position.
We specialize in promoting an environment that is motivating, encouraging, and very positive.
In a time where a patient is facing the darkest times of their life, the physical therapist helps to provide “light” to that individual.
How to Succeed in Physical Therapy Oncology
If you have a desire to work with cancer patients, there are several unique ways that you may achieve the highest level of success in the endeavor. The following outlines tips from the most successful oncology professionals in the field:
- First, be certain to thoroughly read the records associated with the patients that you are working with. This will help to avoid having the patient review their entire medical history with you. Know your patient before you see your patient. Not only will this help you, but it will also help them.
- Your patient has a treatment plan, yet, they want to work with you, too. Listen to what your patient wants and respect their wishes. Allow the patient to control what happens to them. In the case of cancer, the patient has very little control. Be patient and allow them control when appropriate.
- If – when working with a patient – you observe success and achievements, you should be positive, encouraging, and point those things out. This will provide a big boost to their confidence levels.
- It is likely that many of your patients will not have a successful treatment. For many, cancer will return. You cannot take this personally and you have to understand that this may be extremely devastating for your patient and they WILL take it personally. At any point where your patient is suffering mentally or emotionally, forego your “treatments”; simply offer them support.
- If your patient has discovered that they will be unable to live the life that they once lived and cannot do the things that they once could do, teach them that it is possible to create a new life and help them learn to do things in that new life. You could be the “bridge” between the “old” and the “new”.
We Can Support YOU
If you are a physical therapist that has a desire to work in physical therapy oncology, we can help you. We are a network of providers that has access to many tools and resources to help you achieve the highest level of success.