Physiotherapy can greatly improve quality of life for people with all types of cancer and at all stages of the disease.

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What is cancer?

Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own methods of diagnosis and treatment.


What causes cancer?

For most people with cancer, specific reasons are rarely known. However, we do know some things may increase the risk of developing cancer.

Some aspects such as lifestyle can be monitored to decrease the risk. Others, such as our genes, we may not be able to change.

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk of developing cancer. For example, healthy eating, taking regular exercise and not smoking will all help lower your risk.

How can physiotherapy help cancer patients?

Do you or someone you care for need treatment? 
Find a Physio

Physiotherapists are experts in finding the best ways for cancer patients to be active. This may involve exercise programmes or advice on everyday activities, such as climbing stairs or getting dressed.

With some cancers, research has shown that exercise can reduce the risk of it coming back and increase your chances of surviving. Specialist physios can also help with problems and possible treatment of side effects such as tiredness, osteoporosis and lymphoedema.

Physios also support cancer patients with managing pain. This is important, as pain can make you feel afraid to move or walk. Managing pain can also improve your quality of life. For cancer patients of working age, physiotherapy can help you gain enough strength and mobility to return to work.

Physios work in the NHS, privately, for charities and in the work place through occupational health schemes. They are the third largest health profession after doctors and nurses.

What will happen when I see a physiotherapist?

The evidence

Read our evidence briefing: Physiotherapy works: cancer survivorship

When you see a physio, they will assess your problem and devise a care plan. This will involve agreeing realistic goals. Your physio will ask you about your current symptoms, medical history and how your cancer is affecting your day-to-day life.

He or she will also talk to you about what sort of exercise you feel you can manage. Everything you tell the physio will be completely confidential. Your physio may need to give you a physical examination and ask you to remove some clothes. So it’s a good idea to dress comfortably and wear suitable underwear.

How can I help myself?

It is important to keep as active as possible during and after your cancer treatment. You will need to pace yourself, so set yourself small goals and do not be hard on yourself if you cannot manage everything that you used to. Try to involve your family and friends.

Links and further information

  • NHS Choices offers extensive information on cancer and cancer care: NHS Choices


The content on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation. The CSP is not responsible for the content of any external sites, nor should selection be seen as an endorsement of them.

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