Information for Patients & Carers

About Physiotherapy in Oncology and Palliative Care

Physiotherapists see people with cancer and life-limiting illnesses in lots of different settings, for example in hospitals, in people’s own homes, in outpatient settings and in hospices. 

What is the role of Physiotherapy? 

Some examples of the people we may work with include:

Those living with cancer, who may be:

    • Currently undergoing treatment 
    • Recovering from their cancer but with ongoing side effects from cancer or its treatment
    • Living with cancer that is not curable and may or may not be having treatment

Those living with conditions that are life-limiting,  & conditions that are not curable. For example:

    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease and other progressive respiratory diseases
    • Heart Failure
    • Kidney Failure
    • Progressive neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease
    • Dementia
    • Other progressive conditions that cannot be cured
  • Children who have life-limiting illnesses 

Physiotherapists will work with you to identify what is important to you and what you would like to work towards. For some this may be returning to previous levels of activity, for others it will be managing the symptoms of their condition as best as is possible. They may use a variety of techniques, including exercise and activity prescription, “hands-on” techniques such as acupuncture, massage or taping and advice and support. Physiotherapists have extensive medical knowledge, having completed initial degree-level training and ongoing professional development. They are therefore able to work with you and your healthcare team to ensure that any treatment provided is safe and effective in your specific circumstances. 

You can request to see a cancer or palliative care physiotherapist through your healthcare team, for example, your GP, specialist nurse or consultant. They will know the services in your local area and how best to access a specialist physiotherapist.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have a directory of Chartered Physiotherapists called Physio2U. The link to this site can be accessed below.

 Useful Information

There is a lot of information available online for people living with cancer and palliative care needs and it can be difficult to make sure you get reliable and accurate information. The following links are to reputable websites which provide useful advice for a range of conditions. If you need specific advice for your condition we would recommend asking for a referral to a specialist physiotherapist. This can be done through your healthcare team, for example, your general practitioner, specialist nurse or consultant.

Physical Activity and Cancer:

Macmillan

Cancer Research UK

National Cancer Institute

Prehabilitation:

Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon & Glos Cancer Alliance

Fatigue:

Macmillan

Cancer Research UK 

Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon & Glos Cancer Alliance

Breathlessness:

Macmillan 

Marie Curie

British Lung Foundation

Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression:

Macmillan

Marie Curie

Radiotherapy Side Effects:

Pelvic Radiation Disease Association – PRDA

Jo’s Cervical Trust

Motor Neurone Disease:

Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) – Physiotherapy 

Hospice UK Directory

Age UK – Continuing Health Care