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The Benefits of Pelvic Floor Therapy for Cancer Survivors

Let’s start with some good news:

Health care as a whole has made tremendous strides in cancer screening, treatment, and prevention. In the past few decades, we’ve seen five-year survival rates steadily improving and even saw a decline in U.S. cancer death rates by nearly 30%!

That said, cancer is still a major individual and public health concern. Statistically speaking, it’s quite likely that cancer will affect you or someone you know at some point. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing any type of cancer is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. And the incidence of certain types of cancer—such as colorectal cancer—even appears to be increasing among younger adults.

But there’s other good news: pelvic floor physical therapy can help improve the health, quality of life, and comfort of cancer survivors. Let’s find out how.

Common cancers associated with pelvic floor dysfunction

While pelvic floor dysfunction can affect men and women of all health backgrounds, people with certain types of cancer may be particularly at risk. This includes individuals with cancer affecting organs and tissues within the pelvis and lower abdominal area, including:

  • Ovarian cancer (1 in 88 lifetime risk of developing in women)
  • Cervical cancer (1 in 153 lifetime risk of developing in women)
  • Uterine cancer (1 in 33 lifetime risk of developing in women)
  • Vulvar cancer (1 in 133 lifetime risk of developing in women)
  • Prostate cancer (1 in 8 lifetime risk of developing in men)
  • Bladder cancer (1 in 28 lifetime risk of developing in men, 1 in 91 lifetime risk of developing in women)
  • Colorectal cancer (1 in 23 lifetime risk of developing in men, 1 in 26 lifetime risk of developing in women)

Of course, this list isn’t all-inclusive. At our Bethesda and McLean physical therapy clinics, our pelvic health PTs work with men and women who have undergone treatment for a wide range of oncological conditions.

The benefits of pelvic floor physical therapy for people with cancer

To put it simply, pelvic physical therapy can ease the signs and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction commonly associated with cancers—and cancer treatment interventions—that directly or indirectly affect pelvic floor musculature.

For example, survivors of the above-mentioned cancers often experience issues such as pelvic and lower back pain, painful sex, constipation, and urinary incontinence. These symptoms can arise from both the cancer itself as well as the different types of treatment that individuals might undergo, including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery (e.g., prostatectomy or hysterectomy).

By combining personalized interventions like mind-body coaching, yoga, breath work, therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and biofeedback techniques, our McLean and Bethesda pelvic health PTs are able to help cancer survivors experience:

  • Less pain
  • Improved bowel and bladder control
  • Enhanced sexual and relationship satisfaction
  • Decreased mental and physical stress
  • Greater awareness of the relationship between pelvic floor health and overall wellness

I’m happy to add that what we’re seeing in our clinics is also supported by current research! One recent systematic review published by Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal showed that pelvic floor muscle training combined with counseling and core exercises improved sexual function and health-related quality of life in people with gynecological cancers.

Discover pelvic floor physical therapy for cancer survivors in the Greater DC area

Our Bethesda, MD and McLean, VA physical therapy team is honored to provide compassionate, customized care for cancer survivors with pelvic floor dysfunction. Contact ITR Physical Therapy today at 301-770-7060 to schedule an appointment! If you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to talk with your oncology team to make sure pelvic health PT is right for you.