You can ask your oncologist for a referral to our care team, or your providers may recommend you start physical therapy with us to minimize physical challenges during treatment or recovery. Any level of exercise during and after cancer treatment can reduce side effects, help your body recover, and fight depression. Research from the American Society of Clinical Oncology has shown that physical activity can also lower the risk of cancer returning.
Cancer surgery and treatments can impact your physical wellness in many ways, causing muscle weakness, difficulty balancing, limited range of motion, and more. Taking part in physical therapy as part of your recovery process can restore physical function and strength, helping you maintain or regain quality of life. We’ll teach you exercise routines and adaptive techniques that can help you feel better through treatment and recovery. Our physical therapists can meet with you whether you’re a Duke patient or coming from another health system. Once you set goals with our therapists, we’ll create a personalized plan that aligns with your healing and activity levels.
Physical Therapy Benefits for Cancer Patients and Survivors
Our physical therapists see patients at the same location you receive cancer treatment, which includes two locations in Durham and one in Raleigh.
Evaluating Your Needs
We coordinate directly with your care team, so we understand your medical history when you meet with us for the first time. This helps our physical therapists lead a focused conversation about your goals and concerns and how treatment may impact your daily life. A physical exam and functional tests will set benchmarks for your range of motion, strength, and balance. The exam may include activities like timed walks, sitting and standing without support, or correcting balance after spinning in a circle.
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.
Additional Programs and Care for Cancer Patients
Making Planning Easy for Cancer and Physical Therapy Treatments
Our physical therapists work collaboratively with your medical providers to offer comprehensive care at the same location receive your cancer treatment. You can have physical therapy sessions in either Durham or Raleigh, including on the same day as your treatment.
Free Exercise Programs
Exercise physiologists at the Duke Health & Fitness Center create individualized plans that support your diagnosis, recovery, and quality of life. Free, weekly consultations are offered for patients receiving or who have received care at Duke for a cancer diagnosis. Each session lasts 60 minutes and reviews ways to manage your fitness. If you have a Duke MyChart account, staff at the Health & Fitness Center can communicate with your care team about your wellness and create recommendations that best support you and your goals.
Coordination with Occupational Therapy Needs
People who receive chemotherapy can sometimes suffer from “chemo brain,” a slang term to describe how treatment might impact the speed of brain function. If you’re set to receive chemotherapy, we may refer you to an occupational therapist to assess your cognitive ability with word or memory tests.
Duke offers holistic treatment options outside of physical therapy through Duke Health & Well-Being, where experts focus on the full spectrum of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that influence and can improve your health. Our integrative medicine teams offer massage, yoga, nutrition counseling, psychotherapy, and more to enhance how your physical body interacts with your emotional well-being.