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Lung Cancer

What is Lung Cancer?

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases. Lung cancer is a tumour that grows in one or both lungs. Primary lung cancer starts growing in the lungs and can sometimes spread to other parts of the body. Secondary lung cancer, or metastatic lung cancer, starts growing in another part of the body and then spreads (metastasises) to the lungs.

How common is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading type of cancer diagnosed in males around the world and in females it is the fourth-most common cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide although survival rates for cancer have improved rapidly over the past years therefore many people survive cancer.

What causes Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is commonly caused by smoking and seen in people over 60 however there is a small proportion of people that have never smoked. Lung cancer is usually caused by a combination of risk factors which include:

  • exposure to second hand smoke
  • exposure to asbestos
  • exposure to other environmental or occupational dusts and chemicals
  • being of an older age
  • having other lung diseases
  • a genetic preposition.

How do you know if you have Lung Cancer?

The symptoms that may be caused by lung cancer include:

  • New cough or change in an old cough
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Weight-loss
  • Wheeze and/or a hoarse voice.

A GP can help diagnose lung cancer, in which you will be asked to perform a variety of tests to try to determine if you have lung cancer, if you do your GP may refer you to a specialist medical doctor for assessment and treatment. Physiotherapy is important before and after cancer treatment to help you stay fit and active.

How can physiotherapy help with Lung Cancer?

Our physiotherapist work with your cancer treatment plan to keep you fit, reduce symptoms and maximise your quality of life. Physiotherapists commonly help you and your disease by providing a personal exercise program allowing you to keep as healthy as possible

When should I exercise?

Before exercising you should undergo a pre-screening assessment to ensure there are no dangers to exercise this will give your physiotherapist and doctors an understanding your baseline level of physical activity. It is possible for people to exercise before, during or after cancer treatment.

The aim of exercise before surgery is to maximise your physical fitness to help you tolerate treatment better and speed up your recovery. Whilst exercise during treatment aims to keep you fit, reduce symptoms, and maximise your quality of life and psychological status. Exercise after finishing surgery or treatment aims to restore any loss in fitness and muscle strength that occurred while having treatment, and maximise your functional abilities, psychological status and quality of life for the long-term.

How much should I exercise?

Exercise is a good way to strengthen your muscles by producing oxygen. It is recommended that people with cancer try to exercise approximately 30mins for at least 5 days a week, this may include aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, riding on a stationary bike or swimming. Strengthening exercises may also be used to keep your muscles strong and are recommended to complete 2-3 days per week. Balance exercises may also be recommended if you have had falls or poor balance. Your physiotherapist will be able to incorporate these types of exercises into your personal exercise plan.

What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program for people with chronic lung diseases that involve supervised group exercise, education and support. If you join a pulmonary rehabilitation program it is a great way to learn how to exercise with lung cancer and how to best manage your disease. Your physiotherapist will measure your current abilities, your symptoms and your safety for exercise in which they will teach you how to do the exercises and then usually supervise you exercising. The programs are located at local hospitals or community centres around Australia.

How effective is physiotherapy for Lung Cancer?

There is a majority of evidence to show how physiotherapy and exercises are associated with strong and consistent benefits such as:

  • improving exercise capacity (fitness)
  • improving muscle strength
  • reducing cancer symptoms (including breathlessness and cancer-related fatigue)
  • reducing depression
  • reducing anxiety
  • reducing cancer distress
  • improving quality of life.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.