Life After Cancer: It’s More Than Just Survival

In 2015, it was estimated that 98,280 women would be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer and some 30,440 will die from the disease.  For men, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in America after skin cancer.  About 1 out of 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.  Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.  Also, the number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million in 2024.  This is due, in large part, to advances in medical technology and research.  Most people think that when you are a cancer survivor, survival is all you need to think about. But, there are many side-effects and issues that can arise from cancer treatments and the disease itself.  Cancer can have a negative impact on your pelvic and sexual health, causing issues, such as incontinence, constipation, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction.

levitt-sara-dsc_6-9-1-16-bhphotoSarah Levitt, MPT, PRPC is our pelvic floor rehabilitation practitioner, and she has seen, first hand, the issues these patients are dealing with.  She recently attended a continuing education course in the treatment of oncology-related issues through the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute.  This course was designed to give practitioners, like Sarah, an understanding of the impact of pelvic and gynecological cancers have on the health and quality of life in our male and female patients.  It also gives an insight into the important role we play as members of the oncology multidisciplinary healthcare team.

As a pelvic rehabilitation practitioner, Sarah, has expert skills in the evaluation and treatment of pelvic dysfunctions, but oncology-related dysfunctions create unique challenges.  Some of these challenges may be injury to the lymphatic system, anatomical excisions, tissue injury from radiation, and systemic issues from chemotherapy.

Through this course, Sarah has gained an understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic and gynecological cancers and the long term implications of these treatments; especially in relation to pelvic floor and lymphatic function, cancer related fatigue, and bone density issues. The course covered common female gynecologic cancers including ovarian, uterine, cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer; as well as common male pelvic cancers, such as prostate, testicular, penile, bladder, and colorectal cancer.  The course provided instruction on specific interventions for the lymphatic system including, but not limited to, genital lymphedema and evidence-based approaches for treating cancer-related fatigue and osteopenia/osteoporosis.  Sarah is also able to provide strategies for clinical and home-based programs that will address conditions, such as sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain.

It is also important to understand the psychological effects of cancer on sexual function and health.  Because of the training she received in this course, Sarah is able to address those issues and keep an eye out for when a patient should seek additional support and guidance from a mental health provider.

Here is an informative article on how pelvic radiation can affect a woman’s sexual health. 

Sarah is eager to help patients like these as it is much needed.  If you would like to contact Sarah or schedule an appointment with her, please contact our Clarkston office at (248) 620-4260.

Resources:
https://hermanwallace.com/continuing-education-courses/oncology-and-the-female-pelvic-floor
https://hermanwallace.com/continuing-education-courses/oncology-and-the-male-pelvic-floor
http://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/about-gynecologic-cancers/
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
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