For KK Women’s and
(KKH) Senior Principal
Ms Elizabeth Chan, the interest
to pursue physiotherapy
for cancer patients as a subspecialisation
was sparked when
she was still an undergraduate,
following a clinical attachment at an
oncology ward. This was unsurprising
given her empathetic nature,
selflessness, and inherent sensitivity
“When patients are diagnosed
with cancer, they often go through a
long and difficult journey. I wanted
to use physiotherapy to support them
through it,” said the 38-year-old.
Having joined KKH’s
15 years ago, Ms Chan now heads
a team focusing on women’s
health. She oversees the daily
operations of her team, and steps
in to troubleshoot when needed.
The team provides care for female
patients with a wide range of
conditions requiring physiotherapy
support, including those diagnosed
Ms Chan sees about six to eight
patients a day, spending up to an
hour with each of them, depending
on their condition.
Every step of the way
Ms Chan begins journeying
alongside her patients even before
they are diagnosed with cancer.
When patients get hospitalised
and are awaiting the investigation
results for their diagnosis, she
prescribes exercises to improve
their mobility and prevent
deterioration of their physical
function during the hospital stay.
If they require surgery, she helps
them get physically fit for it, so as
to speed up their recovery process.
After their surgery, Ms Chan
recommends movement and pain
relief strategies so that patients can
gradually resume their functional
movements and daily activities.
Most patients undergo further
treatment, such as chemotherapy,
radiotherapy, and endocrine therapy,
have side effects.
long-term swelling of the arm or leg,
is one example of such side effects.
“I saw how the condition
greatly affects patients’ daily lives
and I wanted to help them in
some way, so I chose to specialise
in the field of lymphoedema
management,” said Ms Chan.
She performs lymphatic
drainage techniques on these
patients to reduce swelling, and
prescribes the appropriate type
of compression to maintain or
further bring down the swelling.
She also teaches them exercises
and self-care tips, including a
simplified version of the lymphatic
drainage technique, so that they
can better manage their swelling.
“We focus on using
compression to enhance blood
and lymphatic circulation. I
provide them with stockings or
compression garments, and teach
them how to use compression
bandaging, which is an important
component of the treatment.”
Coming to terms
In this line of work, Ms Chan
understands that some of her
patients will inevitably lose the
battle against cancer. Nevertheless,
she strives to help them cope with
symptoms, such as pain and swelling,
so that they can be as comfortable
as possible in their last days.
“After building such a strong
rapport with them over the years,
it is heartbreaking to witness their
fight coming to an end. But knowing
that they have come to some form
of acceptance helps me get through
the situation. I feel privileged to be
a part of their lives,” she said.
Passion to serve
Apart from her work with cancer patients, Ms Chan also helps
women who suffer from
osteoporosis. For these patients,
exercise is a vital part of their
treatment. Prior to the COVID-19
pandemic, Ms Chan would conduct
group exercise classes for women
with low bone mass. Currently, the
team is looking to resume some
of these group sessions virtually
and in a safe manner to enable
patients to continue exercising.
“For a whole hour, we exercise
together, and this experience is
complete with background music.
I modify the exercises to make sure
they are safe even for the elderly.
But do not underestimate them —
some of them are pretty fit even
though they are in their 70s!”
Outside of work, she finds time
to volunteer at the Women’s Cancer
Support Group and the KK Alpine
Blossoms Breast Cancer Support
Group. She conducts training and
exercise sessions there, sharing tips
with patients along the way.
“This is my way of giving
back. Knowing that the nuggets
of information I share motivate
some patients to start or resume
some form of physical activity
encourages me to continue
giving my time to these causes,”
Her passion for her patients
shines through. Last year,
Ms Chan was pleasantly surprised
to receive the Efficiency Medal
at the National Day Awards. The
award is given to those who show
exceptional devotion to duty or
for work of special significance.
“It is very meaningful to be
there for patients at the lowest
point of their lives. We must stand
by them, support them through
the difficult times, and help them
look ahead to their recovery.”