Work Type




Faculty Advisor

Ann Wilson, PT, M.Ed., GCS


Title: The Safety and Efficacy of Physical Agents on Cancer Survivors: An Update

Authors: Gentry Ensign, SPT1; Kathryn Flyte, SPT1; Michael Moore, SPT1; Katelyn Ratliff, SPT1; Ann Wilson, P.T., M.Ed., GCS1

Affiliations: 1. School of Physical Therapy, University of Puget Sound

Theory: Cancer patients are often referred to physical therapy to treat impairments associated with cancer, its treatment, and the disease progression. Physical therapists sometimes use physical agents as part of a complete rehabilitation program for the purpose of decreasing pain, increasing strength, and facilitating tissue healing while avoiding possible malignant tumor growth. The benefits of physical therapy modalities in cancer treatment has not been well defined, but have potential to improve quality of life, functional abilities, and participation for these patients. Currently, many physical agents are contraindicated in the treatment of cancer patients because of potential concerns that they may increase the growth or rate of growth of malignant tumors. The lack of clinically-applicable and high-quality studies that support or refute these theories makes the use of some physical therapy modalities in the treatment of cancer patients controversial. For this reason and due to the changes in contemporary modality use over the last fifteen years, an update of the current literature is warranted. The purpose of this literature review is to update an already-existing literature review by Pfalzer in 2001 discussing the use of modalities in treatment of cancer-related impairments.


  1. Kozanoglu E, Basaran S, Paydas S, Sarpel T. Efficacy of pneumatic compression and low-level laser therapy in the treatment of postmastectomy lymphoedema: A randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2009;23(2):117-124.
  2. Hurlow A, Bennet MI, Robb KA, Johnson MI, Simpson KH, Oxberry SG, Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) for cancer pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012; 3: 1-26.
  3. Cheville AL, Basford JR. Role of Rehabilitation Medicine and Physical Agents in the Treatment of Cancer-Associated Pain. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32(16):1691-1702.
  4. Majithia N, Smith TJ, Coyne PJ, et al. Scrambler Therapy for the management of chronic pain. Support Care Cancer. 2016;24:2807-2814.


University of Puget Sound


Poster removed from view at request of the author.