by Victoria Ferro
Many cancer patients come out of arduous treatments feeling a lot worse than before they got started. Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiation, Hormonal Treatment each carry with it a long list of side effects that includes some deterioration of physical functioning, not limited to neuropathy, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, among many others. According to Sharon Leslie, P.T, DPT, who specializes in helping cancer patients and suvivors regain physical functionality pre and post treatment, physical therapy that is informed by a deep knowledge of oncology can mitigate up to 99% of these issues.
As part of her talk at the recent Bay Area Cancer Connections Annual Conference entitled “Setting Expectations for Physical Recovery After Treatment” Ms. Leslie drew upon her many years of experience to help conference attendees understand the process of recovery for specific issues that challenge breast and ovarian cancer patients and survivors. She says it is particularly important for patients who are complex cases, with multiple surgeries for example, to not try to recover by going directly to the gym and working out normally post treatment. It would be important for patients whose medical histories and conditions are more complex to consult and work with an oncology physical therapist, so that recovery can be handled with safety, and proper timing. Ms. Leslie says that the goal of Oncology Physical Therapy (OPT) is to release the former patient to full functionality so that he or she may do everything she used to be able to do, perhaps even more and fully engage themselves with the world that way with no obstacle. She says that in this regard the benefits of OPT are not just physical, but psychological and emotional.
It is interesting to note that not every Center for Excellence in the treatment of cancer in the US offers oncology physical therapy, not even Stanford Hospitals, which has a very evolved set of supportive services for cancer patients. In my experience as a patient there, not one member of my care team present or past has mentioned OPT as an option. After speaking with Ms. Leslie, it is clear that OPT is something I direly need as my case is complex. Ms. Leslie and other OPT practitioners offers services to cancer patients and survivors from their offices at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.