Physiotherapy in Oncology

Physiotherapists work in cancer care across a variety of settings alongside other members of the healthcare team to promote independence and optimise quality of life. The following are some of the ways of how physiotherapists can help people with cancer and cancer survivors.

  • Surgical Complications: Physiotherapists can help with regaining movement and avoiding complications after breast and other cancer related surgeries.
  • Neuro-Oncology: Physiotherapists have a key role in assessing and rehabilitating balance, co-ordination, strength and mobility in patients whose cancer affects their nervous system, like brain or spinal cancers.
  • Pain: Physiotherapists use a variety of approaches to the management of pain, including, active movement, thermal modalities, electrotherapy modalities (e.g. TENS) and massage.


  • Fatigue: Physiotherapists are experts in exercise prescription.  Exercise is safe during and after cancer treatment.  It has been found to improve fitness, muscular strength, quality of life and fatigue in persons treated for breast, prostate and haematological cancers.
  • Decreased mobility: Mobility can deteriorate at various stages of cancer treatment.  Physiotherapists use a combination of exercise and gait re-education (and occasionally provision of mobility aids) to optimise mobility.
  • Respiratory distress: Physiotherapists can help to address some respiratory complaints, such as breathlessness and difficulty clearing respiratory secretions through use of breathing control strategies and active exercise.
  • Lymphoedema: Physiotherapists provide advice on ways to minimise the risk of developing lymphoedema, and offer lymphoedema management (self-massage, manual lymphatic drainage and compression) as necessary.

Physiotherapists are involved in preventative, restorative, supportive and palliative care. 

Exercise programmes are based on current best practice guidelines and are tailored to suit individual requirements (e.g. post-treatment guidelines, overall health status and personal exercise preferences).