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This section covers several areas, including cancer, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatric disorders. As a physical therapist (PT), these various topics are not within the scope of physical therapy in terms of diagnosis, but the PT must be aware of the manifestations that indicate dysfunction and medical referral. Also, the PT must understand the impact of these conditions during exercise. Finally, understanding medication physiology, pathology, and side effects is a prerequisite to determining the best treatment interventions, progressions, and care for these abnormalities.

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High-Yield Terms to Learn
Adjuvant treatment Additional treatment provided with the primary treatment to enhance the effectiveness.
Biopsy The surgical removal of a small section of a tumor. A needle biopsy uses a very fine needle, whereas a resection removes the tumor.
Brachytherapy Internal radiation therapy that places radioactive sources inside or adjacent to the tumor.
Chemotherapy A form of drug treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy may be given intravenously, intramuscularly, orally, subcutaneously, intralesional, intrathecally, and topically.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy A specialized form of external beam therapy that allows the radiation dose to be shaped to fit the size of the tumor.
Metastasis The movement of cancer cells from one body part to another.
Neoplasm New and abnormal tissue growth in a part of the body, especially as a characteristic of cancer.
Neutropenia A reduction in the levels of white blood cells.
Palliative treatment A treatment approach aimed at relieving symptoms and pain.
Remission A state where the signs or symptoms of cancer are no longer present.
Staging A method to categorize cancer as to how large the tumor is and how far it has spread.
Total body irradiation Radiation is applied to the whole body to destroy all malignant cells before a bone marrow transplant.
Tumor A swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant.
Tumor marker A substance in the body that may indicate the presence of cancer.


The PT must have a working knowledge of the function, causes, signs, and symptoms of systemic involvement so that prompt action can be taken on behalf of the patient.

As a patient with a primary diagnosis of systemic involvement will not typically be referred to physical therapy, the PT’s initial examination includes taking the history, conducting a standardized system review, and performing selected tests and measures to identify existing movement-related disorders. During this examination, the PT may receive information that points to systemic involvement that may or may not warrant referral for additional medical evaluation. In most instances, the medical team will already be aware of such systemic involvement, but, on occasion, the patient may have one of these conditions.


Oncology is the branch of medicine that deals with tumors, including the study of their development, diagnosis, ...

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