Cancer and cancer treatments may affect multiple systems and organs. The neurological system, muscles and bones are particularly vulnerable. Problems with limb weakness and loss, gait disturbance, imbalance and other problems affecting normal walking are common in 25%–35% of cancer patients. Fatigue and visual changes may add to these mobility challenges. Precancerous mobility impairments may be magnified by cancer and its treatment.
It is important to consider whether the patient’s condition would create challenges with the commute to and from work or with the performance of job tasks that require standing, walking, climbing, etc. Also to be considered is whether mobility impairments will likely improve or not over time.
What patients can do
Advise your patient about what to expect regarding mobility to help them make decisions about work. Refer them to a rehabilitation specialist who can work with patients to improve their strength and recommend assistive devices to ensure safe mobility. Good nutrition, adequate rest and appropriate exercise will contribute to the patient’s overall wellbeing, too.
For a 2015 review of exercise guidelines for cancer survivors, see Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Physical Activity & Exercise Benefits Cancer Patients and Survivors.
There are several ways that jobs can be modified to accommodate mobility impairments:
Modify work tasks and schedules:
- If the patient works standing up, advise them to sit down when possible. Use a stand-lean chair or keep a rest chair nearby.
- Work from home if possible.
- Arrange an assessment by a physical therapist or occupational therapist, who can recommend appropriate mobility aids.
Modify the work environment:
- Request parking close to the building entrance.
- Relocate the workstation closer to the washroom, break room or other frequently used space.