After surviving cancer, patients can experience emotional and physical changes. One area of the body that is often affected, but many patients are hesitant to discuss, is the pelvis. Maintaining and regaining pelvic health can have a big impact on an individual’s quality of life, because the pelvis controls things such as urination, defecation, core stability and sexual function. Problems with intimacy not only affects the patient, but their partner as well. It is important for patients to notify their physicians and nurses when pelvic floor-related symptoms arise so that they can make appropriate referrals for pelvic health physical therapy to help improve their post-treatment transition.
Many different types of cancer and treatments can affect the pelvis, in men and women. Physical symptoms individuals can experience include: urinary and bowel problems, vaginal dryness, scar tissue, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, pain with intercourse (dyspareunia) or lack of desire. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss what treatment options are available to you with your physical therapist. It can take time to recover and adjust to the cancer treatments. Your survivorship team will work with you to develop realistic goals and expectations.
Treatments can be as simple as using lubricants, moisturizers, or modified body positioning during intimacy, while others involve relaxation techniques, rebuilding positive body image/awareness, range of motion, stamina, and learning to coordinate your pelvic floor with your deep core muscles for improved balance and daily activities.
The most important thing for patients to remember is that, just because something isn’t working as it did previously, doesn’t mean it’s broken. While intimacy may take on different forms after cancer treatment, the survivorship team is there to help you feel whole again and gradually return safely to activities that are meaningful to you and your loved ones. Support and care after cancer treatment can help everyone, men and women, feel empowered to reclaim their lives and well-being, despite what changes have occurred. The cancer survivorship team at Cone Health’s Alamance Regional Medical Center works closely across disciplines to provide patient-centered care, and help patients regain quality of life.
Alamance Regional Medical Center’s survivorship team consists of oncology nurses, clinical psychologists/counselors, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists specializing in lymphedema. The Center offers wellness programs that include nutrition and yoga classes as well as a personalized exercise program called CARE.
For pelvic floor rehab services within the Cone Health System visit:
To locate a pelvic health physical therapist nation-wide, or learn more about pelvic health, visit:
Shin-Yiing Yeung is a pelvic health physical therapist at Cone Health’s Alamance Regional Medical Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in biology and botany from the North Carolina State University in 2004 and a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University in 2013. She has completed multiple specialized pelvic health courses from Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute and currently serves as an assistant teacher for two of their courses.