Cancer and Disability: How Are They Related?

Woman with cancer and getting support
  • Cancer is an umbrella term for diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth.
  • Common treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can cause long-term mobility problems, like paralysis, chronic pain, lymphedema, and neuropathy.
  • Cognitive disabilities due to brain cancer or treatment are also possible.
  • Home care services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychological support can help manage disabilities caused by cancer.
  • Understanding how cancer can affect mobility allows patients to take steps to prevent long-term consequences.

Cancer is a terrible disease that affects millions of people across the world. It’s life-threatening and can cause many long-term complications and disabilities. Being diagnosed with cancer means that your life is about to change, and it’s not just about the treatment process but also the aftermath of cancer. Many patients are left with disabilities that they never anticipated. Here’s what you need to know about cancer, how it can leave you immobile and you can manage it over time.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is an umbrella term that describes a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide and grow uncontrollably, invading other parts of the body and causing disruption. It can develop from almost any organ or tissue in the body, such as the lungs, breasts, or brain.

What are Some Common Types of Cancer?

The most common types of cancer include breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer (melanoma), and cervical cancer. Other types include leukemia, lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer.

How Does Cancer Affect Mobility?

Depending on the type and stage of your diagnosis, you may be left with impaired mobility due to pain or other physical problems. Here are ways it can affect your mobility:

Cancer people and disabled

Loss of Mobility

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can leave patients with severe side effects that can impact their mobility, leaving them disabled. For example, bone or spine cancer can cause paralysis or limited movement. Post-surgical complications can also limit mobility in some cases. Reduced mobility and function can be a significant challenge for cancer survivors.

Fatigue and Chronic Pain

Cancer patients who undergo surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation may experience chronic pain and fatigue as long-term side effects of their therapy. Chronic pain can impact daily life, work, and quality of life. Fatigue can also limit daily activities and increase the risk of falling and hurting oneself. Those battling cancer can also experience chronic pain that may not disappear after treatment.


Lymphedema is a swelling in the arms or legs due to the removal of lymph nodes or damage to the lymphatic system. This condition is common in patients undergoing breast cancer treatment or surgery. It can create significant difficulties, such as reduced mobility and discomfort, and can be a permanent disability.


Cancer treatments can cause damage to the nerves, leading to a condition called neuropathy. Neuropathy can impact one’s quality of life, resulting in disfigurement and permanent disability. It can cause chronic pain, numbness, tingling, and difficulty walking or standing.

Cognitive Disabilities

Brain cancers and some cancer treatments may impact cognitive and mental function, including memory, learning, concentration, and decision-making skills. The cognitive side effects of cancer can result in long-term disabilities that impact daily life, work, and relationships.

Managing These Mobility Issues

If you are experiencing these mobility issues due to cancer, there are known ways to manage them. Here are four effective ways to do that:

Senior with cancer getting help

Home Care

You must get professional services to help you. A local care home service can assist with daily activities, such as mobility, dressing, bathing, and grooming. They can even help treat specific symptoms you might have due to cancer and its treatment.

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist can help you maintain or improve your range of motion in affected areas and teach you new movement patterns. They can also create a customized home exercise program for your abilities and goals.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is important for improving flexibility and preventing muscle atrophy. A physical therapist will assess your current situation and prescribe an appropriate exercise regimen tailored to your needs.

Psychological Support

Having the support of family members and friends can make a big difference in managing disabilities caused by cancer. Counseling or psychological support can benefit those struggling with anxiety or depression due to their diagnosis. It can also be an excellent resource for providing emotional support.

Cancer is a life-threatening disease that can potentially leave patients with long-term disabilities. Understanding how cancer and its treatments can affect your mobility is essential, so you can take steps to manage or prevent them. With the right expert advice and support, you can maintain an active lifestyle despite your diagnosis.

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