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Physical Therapy for Mesothelioma Patients

Physical therapists work with a variety of clients, including everyone from healthy athletes to people struggling with cancer. These trained professionals help patients using guided physical strategies, like stretching, massage, and exercise to address specific problems like pain or reduced mobility.

For someone living with mesothelioma, life can become challenging. Cancer patients regularly struggle with pain and fatigue. Also, decreased activity levels can make symptoms worse and life less enjoyable. Working with a physical therapist can provide a number of benefits, including reduced pain, increased mobility, improved mood, and improved energy. A physical therapist can be an important member of the medical team caring for mesothelioma patients.

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What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a treatment with proven benefits. It focuses on movement and addresses a number of health issues. The overall goal of physical therapy is to make movement easier and less painful while increasing the ability to perform everyday activities.

Physical therapists may work with in conjunction with medical professionals. Some work independently, diagnosing and treating patients. These physical therapists use manual therapy (moving the body in various ways) as well as other strategies, like hot and cold therapy, water therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and education to help patients. They also provide strategies patient’s can use independently to make movement easier.

The Challenges of Living with Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is difficult to live with and challenging to treat. Both the cancer and the treatments cause symptoms and side effects that cause pain, immobility, and fatigue. Physical therapy can be an important part of a patient’s treatment strategy to make living with mesothelioma less uncomfortable.

Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of mesothelioma, affects the lungs. This cancer causes symptoms that include chest pains, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Treatment for mesothelioma commonly includes chemotherapy, which can cause fatigue and nausea. Surgery may also be used to treat mesothelioma. The effects of surgery include pain and reduced mobility. These side effects can make performing basic activities more difficult and complicated. As a result, patients with mesothelioma may also experience depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapists help mitigate many challenges of living with mesothelioma. Most often, physical therapists work with the medical team to provide the best care. These are some of the important benefits a physical therapist can provide for a patient with mesothelioma:

  • Minimizing treatment side effects. The side effects of mesothelioma treatment can be uncomfortable, painful, and severe. Researchers have found that physical activity guided by a physical therapist can help minimize treatment side effects, particularly pain. Physical therapy may be especially helpful for reducing discomfort and improving mobility after surgery.
  • Respiratory therapy for better breathing. One of the most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma is difficulty breathing. Patients with pleural mesothelioma may also experience  painful coughing and shortness of breath. Symptoms often worsen as the disease progresses. Physical therapists use respiratory therapy to help patients dealing with mesothelioma. Exercises include breath training and airway exercises.
  • Increasing mobility. Greater mobility is one important thing a physical therapist can do for a mesothelioma patient. Using guided exercises, stretches, and other therapies, a physical therapist helps patients move more easily and with less pain. This opens up a world of opportunity for the patient.
  • Improving overall physical fitness. With limited mobility, pain, and fatigue, physical activity can be challenging for mesothelioma patients. However, being physically active is important for recovery and well-being. Studies have proven that physically active cancer patients have lower mortality rates. A physical therapist plays an important role in keeping patietns active and fit. They help patients perform exercises adapted for their specific needs and limitations.
  • Fighting fatigue. Fatigue can be a major issue for cancer patients. For someone with mesothelioma, the cancer itself causes fatigue. In addition, fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Although it seems counterintuitive, activity is the best way to fight fatigue.
  • Improving mood and quality of life. Working with a physical therapist is a great way to battle the anxiety, depression, and stress that often accompany life with mesothelioma. Physical activity is proven to boost mood and reduce stress. However, the specific benefits of physical therapy also help improve mood.

There are many reasons why a physical therapist can be an important part of the overall care of a patient with mesothelioma. Benefits range from reducing treatment side effects to increasing energy. Any patient with mesothelioma should consider physical therapy. However, it is important to try this treatment technique with the guidance of the patient’s medical team. Most cancer treatment centers can recommend a therapist if they don’t have physical therapists on staff.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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