Going through cancer treatment is difficult at any age. Because kids’ bodies are rapidly growing and developing while they undergo treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, they are more susceptible to long-term side effects that can hinder physical, cognitive and emotional development.
These impairments begin early in treatment and can cause physical limitations that carry over into adulthood. With survival rates rising, pediatric oncology research is not only focused on a cure, but also emphasizes improving the quality of life of pediatric cancer survivors.
Minimizing effects of chemotherapy through physical therapy
Lynn Tanner, physical therapist in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Program, is always seeing the bigger picture. She is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our patients. After identifying that children who received cancer treatment were presenting long-term physical limitations in their ability to participate fully in life, she knew they needed a program to help. She partnered with oncologists, researchers and the physical therapy department to roll out the Stoplight Program, for children undergoing treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
This program works to have patients participate in physical therapy early on in their treatment because we know that maximizing physical activity and physical therapy from the beginning can improve care. During treatment for ALL, children can be challenged by changes in their nerves and muscles from the chemotherapy. The physical therapy treatments in the Stoplight Program aim to prevent or minimize these side effects.
The learnings Tanner and her colleagues have taken away from this program have been shared not only in cancer treatment centers across the country, but also around the world.
Physical therapy and the Stoplight Program are just two ways, we, at Children’s Minnesota are focusing on research and innovations that make a difference in kids’ lives. From improving day-to-day quality of life for children and teens, to developing new pain management approaches and adopting cutting-edge technologies, our research is completely kid- and family-focused.
While cancer patients benefit greatly from physical therapy, it can help kids with a variety of conditions and needs. Visiting a physical therapist can help children who have experienced any type of illness that has affected movement in the body in addition to children who have experienced an injury or may be disabled. While many people think of physical therapy as something that can rebuild strength and range of motion, it also can help manage pain.
Dr. Gigi Chawla talks with WCCO about how all children can benefit from physical therapy.