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Quality Of Life After Colorectal Cancer

Quality of life after colorectal cancer

Quality of life after cancer is an important topic to discuss as cancer treatments become increasingly successful.  More than 85% of people who are diagnosed with local colorectal cancer have a 5-year survival rate.  Over 14.5 million people are living and thriving today in the US who have gone through cancer treatments.  However, only 5% of those 14.5 million people were directed towards any type of rehab. 

Especially when it comes to colorectal cancer, pelvic floor physical therapy offers a conservative, non-pharmacological option for many of the symptoms that accompany cancer and the treatments.  These symptoms can include pain, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and fatigue.  Physical therapy can also help with safe return to functional activities and exercise while considering injury prevention, safety, and technique.

Some of the common side effects of colorectal cancer and treatment can include changes in soft tissue mobility, scars, fatigue and muscle weakness, and changes in bowel and bladder function.

Bowel and bladder dysfunction is one of the most common changes that occurs in conjunction with colorectal cancer and treatments.  These can include:

  • Urgency
  • Increased frequency
  • Incontinence
  • Urinary hesitancy
  • Difficulty emptying
  • Constipation or straining
  • Pain

Scar tissue and soft tissue mobilization is an important piece of physical therapy after surgery and radiation treatments.  This tissue mobilization can decrease the risk of bowel obstruction, pain, urinary and fecal urgency, frequency and incontinence.  It can also help with decreasing pain and improved ability to activate the abdominal wall strength and activation that can help to improve posture and the ability to complete daily activities and return to exercise.  Changes in posture after surgery can lead to pain, slowed digestion, and decreased diaphragm movement that can contribute to more bowel and bladder changes.

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help to improve many of these symptoms.  Treatments may include soft tissue or scar tissue mobilization, cues for changes in toileting for improved emptying or an improved routine.  We can also help with improved posture and activation of the muscles that were affected for decreased pain and improved strength.  PT can also give lots of cues for changes in exercise routines and home activities. 

Whether you have surgery and/or radiation, your physical therapist should look at soft and scar tissue changes and how to start mobilizing that tissue.  We will also look at exercise programs for strength, flexibility, endurance and balance.  Depending on where surgery occurred and if you had radiation, this may also involve soft tissue mobilization of the pelvic floor.  We will also spend time talking about and looking at ways to improve bowel and bladder function and sexual health.

Physical therapy plays a key role in returning to those activities we enjoy and need to be able to do after cancer.  Our job is to help improve quality of life, return to exercise, improved bowel and bladder function.  Only 5% of people were directed towards rehab after treatment, so a lot of times we must advocate for rehab after cancer.  But with this info, you can start to play that role in your healing after treatments.

We offer a free 15 minute phone consultation to discuss your symptoms and whether or not pelvic PT is right for you. Click here to schedule your free consultation now!

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