Physiotherapy supplementary services

We understand that coping with cancer and undergoing radiation treatment is not easy. That is why we want you to have access to information and services that have proven to make a positive difference to patient’s well-being during and after their treatment. Physiotherapy treatment is especially effective for patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment for breast, head and neck, and prostate cancers (scroll below for more details).

A physiotherapist who is an expert in cancer rehabilitation aims to help you regain your quality of life by helping you manage potential side effects more effectively during and after treatment. The nature of support from the physiotherapist will depend on your diagnosis and treatment plan. A customised plan will be developed with you to suit your needs.

We recommend you include physiotherapy support at all stages of the treatment pathway. There is clear evidence that patients who incorporate physiotherapy as part of their treatment are stronger and usually experience side effects to a lesser degree. You may contact a physiotherapist at any stage of the treatment pathway.

Benefits include:

●      Regaining and maintaining range of movement (i.e. flexibility to carry out the activities you used to find easy)

●      Regaining strength and stability

●      Release the tightness caused by scar tissue

●      Decreased pain

●      Incontinence issues follow cancer treatments for prostate and gynaecological cancers

●      Managing dysfunction (e.g. erectile dysfunction)

●      Better management of tiredness

●      Regain quality of life and return to work, sport and fun


Can I get funding for physiotherapy treatment?

If you have private health insurance, we encourage you to check whether you are eligible for physiotherapy treatment as part of your treatment plan, all post surgical rehabilitation includes physiotherapy as part of the treatment. Depending on your policy and provider, you may be covered to receive these supplementary services before surgery, after surgery or during and after radiation therapy.

In some situations, you may have undergone surgery prior to coming to ARO for radiation therapy. Please contact your private health insurance provider to confirm if you are eligible for post-surgery rehabilitation. 


How do I access physiotherapy treatment with ARO?

Please speak to any of the staff at ARO or talk to the receptionist who can make a booking with the visiting physiotherapist at ARO. 

Return to Form Physiotherapy has been working with ARO for over 3 years and are physiotherapy experts in cancer recovery and rehabilitation. They are passionate about helping patients to live a full and normal life after cancer and believe life should not be just about getting rid of the cancer.

At Return to Form,  we recommend Zee Sharif, an experienced cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist who provides a full range of services designed to care, support and guide men and women through every stage of their treatment and recovery. She works with individuals to address rehabilitation needs for a variety of conditions. An individual plan will be prepared with you based on a needs assessment and setting goals together.

To make an appointment with Zee, please speak with the ARO receptionists. Zee is onsite once a week at ARO and they will try to book this appointment either before or after your radiation treatment appointment. Alternatively, you may contact Return to Form directly to make an appointment at ARO, or at one of the Return to Form locations (Ponsonby, Wynward Quarter and New Lynn). Phone 09 551 4460 or email info@returntoform.com For more information visit https://returntoform.com/cancer-rehab/ 

Referrals can also be made from your radiation oncologist, nurse, radiation therapist or specialist e.g. urologist, breast surgeon. Depending on the type of cancer you are having treated, you may also apply for funding from the Breast Cancer Foundation, Pinc & Steel cancer rehab and The NZ Prostate cancer foundation. Return to form are also a Sweet Louise and Pinc & Steel provider for cancer rehabilitation.


Breast Cancer

Before starting treatment

Each patient is unique, together with the physio you will set some goals and develop a plan that is tailored to your needs. This will include a customised range of exercises that are appropriate and safe for you. The core purpose of having physiotherapy prior to the start of your treatment is to establish a baseline of your strength and movement. 

During treatment

There are a range of side effects that may potentially develop over the course of the treatment. The aim of the physio sessions during treatment is to help manage and minimise the side effects:

  1. Maintain and improve range of movement in general, and in areas such as the neck and shoulder.
  2. Regain, maintain or strengthen muscles.
  3. Decrease pain as appropriate
  4. Help manage lymphedema. Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms and is commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment.
  5. Manage cording. Cording, also known as axillary web syndrome, can happen weeks or months after breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy or axillary surgery. It feels like a tight cord running from your armpit down the inner arm, sometimes to the palm of your hand, and is caused by hardened lymph vessels.
After treatment

The core objective will be to help you improve your quality of life by helping you regain strength and movement overall and in specific areas. If you had physio sessions prior to treatment, we can review your status against the baseline. 


Head and Neck Cancers

Before starting treatment

The main objective of seeing a physiotherapist prior to the start of your treatment is to establish a baseline of your strength and movement. 

During treatment

Physiotherapy is a very effective as a way to maintain or improve the range for movement particularly after surgery when scar tissue may develop. Typical focus areas include jaw, neck, shoulder and upper spine/thoracic movement. Introducing specific relaxation and breathing techniques using the diaphragm has also proven to be effective. 

After treatment

The key aim will be to help you improve your quality of life by helping you regain strength and movement overall and in specific areas. If you had physio sessions prior to treatment, we can review your status against the baseline.


Prostate Cancer

Before starting treatment

The core purpose of seeing a physiotherapist prior to the start of your treatment is to establish a programme prior to your radiation treatment. These exercises are focussed on strengthening your pelvic floor resulting in better bladder control and limiting the side effects of sexual dysfunction.

During treatment

Physiotherapy is a very effective way to help manage potential side effects. The programme of exercises will be tailored and may change depending on the nature of the side effects.

By having physiotherapy many patients regain quality of life faster, and experience:

●      Less frequency of going to the toilet

●      Better bladder control

●      No need to wear pads

●      Sleep through the night

●      Limit the side effects of sexual dysfunction

In some cases, the above may not be achieved immediately. Depending on the individual the introduction of physiotherapy means the patient can often lessen or overcome the side effects. The best results are achieved for those patients that engage a physiotherapist prior to starting radiation treatment. 

After treatment

The core objective will be to help you improve your quality of life by helping you improve or regain quality of life.

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