By Riva Preil
Gynecologic cancer is cancer that originates in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five types of gynecologic cancers are cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Each year in the United States, approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, and the risk of developing gynecological cancer increases with age.
Fortunately, advances in medical technology and treatment, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical interventions, have helped women survive gynecological cancers. However, the urologic system and pelvic floor undergo “trauma” en route to health, and many survivors of gynecologic cancers experience urinary incontinence. A recent study examined the effects of a pelvic floor strengthening program among gynecological cancer survivors as an approach to decrease urinary incontinence. Researchers worked with 40 cancer survivors (60% uterine cancer, 40% other gynecological cancers) who experienced urinary incontinence after their cancer treatment. Participants were randomly to an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group participated in a pelvic floor muscle (PFM) strengthening exercises (aka Kegel exercises) 22 days of the month for three months. The control group did not participate in any targeted PFM exercises. After three months, 80% of the experimental group (compared to only 40% of the control group) reported significant improvements in their urinary incontinence. Once again, the research speaks for itself- PFM strengthening programs benefit many segments of the population, including gynecological cancer survivors. We here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy are trained to teach PFM strengthening exercises and to progress the level of challenge. Please call us if you have any questions about whether pelvic floor physical therapy is appropriate for you.