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Prescribed exercise is a critial treatment for cancer survivors, says new campaign

Prescribed exercise is a critial treatment for can
Photo: Exercise for cancer survivors
People with prostate, breast and lung cancer will be the focus of a new campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of physiotherapy for survivors, during treatment and beyond.

The campaign is the second phase of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) ‘With Your Physio’ campaign, following the launch of the first stage in May. 

Overall, the campaign aims highlight the important role physiotherapy can play in improving and managing the health journey of Australians suffering a range of chronic health conditions.

The first stage of the campaign focused on common women’s health issues, including sexual health incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

The discomfort commonly felt when talking about these types of health conditions, means many women are unaware of how physiotherapy can help – a fact this campaign hoped to change.
The next phase, taking place from September to November, aligns with our national cancer awareness months, focusing on three of the most common cancers impacting Australians - prostate (September), breast (October) and lung cancer (November).

The campaign will centre around the importance of prescribed exercise as an effective form of medical and health management for cancer survivors.

APA Cancer, Palliative care and Lymphoedema National Group Chair, Dr Elise Gane, said exercise prescription, modification and ongoing evaluation had become increasingly important in optimising health recovery or preventing further decline in patients living with and beyond cancer.

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that one in two Australian men and women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85,” Dr Gane said.

But with seven out of 10 Australians expected to survive at least five years after their cancer diagnosis, managing life beyond cancer is more important than ever.

“As a result of screening programs, more Australians with chronic illnesses such as cancer, are being diagnosed earlier, rather than later,” said Dr Gane.

Given early stage cancer responds better to treatment, survival rates will most likely continue to increase, making quality of life paramount.

“Exercise aims to help keep the patient physically active and strong, and counteracts the side effects of cancer and the treatments,” said Dr Gane.

Following a thorough assessment of a patient, physiotherapists can offer personalised prescription of structured exercise, along with more general advice around physical activity, taking into account that person’s unique health situation. 

“This can play a vital role in keeping patients physically fit, reducing their symptoms and maximizing their quality of life.”

Dr Gane said specialists and GPs don’t always have the time or expertise to assess for and then prescribe an exercise program for their patients during consultations.

As a result, they’re increasingly referring cancer patients to external health providers such as physiotherapists.

“Physiotherapists have experience working in multidisciplinary teams and their training, skills and qualifications in anatomy, pathology and physiology make them well qualified to treat patients with a wide range of cancers.”

Physiotherapy treatment can address the side effects of the disease and its medical treatment, as well as any pre-existing conditions a person may have.

Dr Gane said many people living with cancer may be reluctant to exercise due to concerns around pain or discomfort, fatigue, or lack of knowledge.

“Physiotherapists can help guide, progress and support an individual’s exercise goals because we are experts in exercise prescription for a wide range of chronic conditions including cancers, and experts at adapting exercise programs to suit each and every patient, helping them manage their cancer with confidence.”

For more information about the campaign and the three cancers highlighted within, can be accessed here.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.