Treatment for breast cancer is multidisciplinary. Women diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage can opt for breast-conserving therapy involving mastectomy or radiotherapy. However, the risk or chance of recurrence doesn’t go away with these approaches. Typically, medical professionals or surgical oncologists use sentinel node biopsy for axillary staging. However, several individualized approaches have reduced the requirement of axillary dissection in patients who are sentinel node-positive.
Regardless of the treatment approach that a doctor suggests, physical therapy plays a vital role in the entire recovery process. It helps men and women deal with post-surgery challenges and restore a normal lifestyle. In fact, physical therapy not only educates candidates on how to cope with the side effects of chemo or radiotherapy but also reduces scars, pain, and inflammation after surgery.
However, choosing reliable patient care services, such as Chaux Physical Therapy, is important to speed up the healing process. As a qualified physician at a renowned therapy center, Dr. Alexandra Chaux uses a combination of holistic approaches and skillful techniques to help patients deal with breast cancer treatment.
Keep on reading to learn more about your breast cancer treatment options and the role of physical therapy and exercises in the healing process.
Approximately 14 million new cancer conditions are diagnosed every year worldwide.
Cancer treatments tend to be very aggressive, causing the patient physical issues such as fatigue, tightness, weakness, and pain.
- Generalized Weakness
- Poor Balance
- Muscle Tightness
- Joint Stiffness
- Difficulty Walking
- Numbness in Hands and Feet
- Swelling of Face, Arms, Trunk, and Legs
- Mood Changes
The American Cancer Society recommends frequent physical activity for those patients who are undergoing cancer treatments. Frequent physical activity improves endurance, strength, enhances mood, and decreases fatigue.
Physical Therapy Before and After Surgery in Cancer Patients
Physical Therapy plays an important role in patient care with cancer both before and after surgery.
Physical therapy educates patients on how to address the side effects of chemo, radiotherapy, and cancer medication before surgery.
Physical Therapy helps patients with the healing process of the incision site, by improving circulation, reducing the formation of scars or adhesion, decreasing pain, and decreasing inflammation.
Physical Therapy restores flexibility, helps cancer patients to heal faster, and allows them to stay as independent as possible.
Physical Therapy and Mood Changes in Cancer Patients.
Doctor Alexandra uses breathing techniques and a holistic approach on top of her manual skillful techniques to help patients with cancer to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
Physical Therapy Treatments
Every year, one in thousand males and one in eight females are diagnosed with breast or chest cancer. Thanks to advanced detection and treatment techniques, survival chances have improved drastically. A competent team of doctors or physicians carefully makes an individualized plan for the patients. Some of the common breast cancer treatment options include:
- Surgeries: mastectomy, lumpectomy, biopsy, reconstruction
- Radiation or chemotherapy
Though survival chances have increased with early detection and individualized treatment plans, the entire process of recovery is daunting. It can lead to patients facing possible side effects both psychologically and physically. Breast cancer treatment can cause the following side effects:
- Scar tissues adhesion
- Pain: chest, shoulder, arm, back, or neck
- Restricted stiffness or ROM of the shoulder, spine, and neck
- Fatigue and weakness
- Axillary Web Syndrome (cording)
- Bladder and bowel changes
- Post-mastectomy syndrome
- Dyspareunia (discomfort during intercourse)
Physical Therapy in Breast Cancer - How Does it Help?
- Assessing baseline measurements – ROM of spine, shoulders, and circumference of extremities
- Identifying impairments that affect recovery, including muscle weakness, pain, and postural dysfunction
- Educating in risk reduction and lymphedema recovery
- Establishing exercise programs for before and after surgery
» Post Surgery Physical Therapy
- Manual Therapy – Manual Therapy refers to skilled, hands-on cancer treatment for the muscles, joints, scars, and fascia. It can help patients with restricted range of movements and motion, swelling, and pain.
- Lymphedema Treatment – The treatment works through compression bandaging, manual lymphatic drainage, assessment for garments, and instructions in self-care and exercise.
- Postural Training – It is a form of physical therapy that addresses postural changes post-surgery with specific postural exercises and some ergonomic assessments.
- Exercise – Exercises are part of all phases of breast cancer treatment. They are vitally important and can reduce or remove the side effects of cancer treatment. For instance, physical therapy in Chaux therapy center provides an individualized program with unique goals.
What to Expect After Breast Cancer Surgery
Possible Risks During and After Reconstruction Surgery
- Problems with the breathing and anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Fluid build-up in a tissue flap or the breast with pain and swelling
- Infection at the site of surgery
- Wound/incision healing problems
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Uneven breasts
- Necrosis or tissue death of a tissue flap, fat, or skin
- Changes in or loss of nipple and sensation in the breast
- Loss of breast muscle movement and strength
- Need for more surgeries to fix post-operation problems
- Changes in the reconstructed breast and arm
- Issues with a breast implant including leakage, movement, scar tissue formation, or rupture (capsular contracture)
Recovery Tips After Breast Cancer Surgery
Though the recovery of breast cancer surgery isn’t an overnight process, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make efforts to allow a smooth process. Here are some mastectomy recovery tips to improve the results and healing process.
» Drainage Device
» Skin Care
Skincare is crucial after breast cancer treatment. The surgery site changes its color to blue or black after the procedure. However, this disappears in 4 to 5 days if there is no infection. Feeling uncomfortable, numb, itchy, or tingly on the armpit or upper arm is normal. You can shower with warm water to soothe irritation, but only if your doctor allows you to.
Avoid using deodorant or shaving your underarms for two weeks to keep infection at bay. As it heals, the incision will feel tough and thick. You can massage the areas gently using mild lotions to soften the scars.
» Changing Bandages
Breast cancer surgery requires you to wear a special bra designed to keep the bandages firm or in place post-surgery. Your doctor or oncologist will tell you how you can change the bandages or dressing after removing your bra.
It is a tricky process, so it is better to get help from someone.
» Incision Care
Make sure your incision is dry and clean after taking a shower. It may cause an infection or develop bacteria. It is better to dab it with a sponge instead of bathing. Also, avoid activities like swimming for some time after surgery.
» Pain Relief
Doctors prescribe pain medication after surgery. You can ask for over-the-counter painkillers to deal with muscular or incision pain post-surgery. Doctors usually instruct you to avoid aspirin for the first few days post-surgery as it may cause further bleeding.
» Follow-Up Exams
Last but not least, follow-up sessions are MUST after breast cancer surgery. This is one way to monitor your health and ensure that your cancer hasn’t reoccurred. To determine if you’re facing any problems, your doctor performs chest, neck, and underarm examinations.
What Exercises Can You do After Breast Cancer?
- Lymph node removal
- Surgical biopsy
- Breast reconstruction
» Myofascial Release
» Wand Exercise
- Holding the wand across their belly using palms and face up.
- Lifting the wand overhead with the unaffected arm until they feel pressure or stretch in the affected arm.
- Holding the same position for five seconds.
» Shoulder Blade Stretch
- Sit on a chair close to a small table with their back against the chair
- Place the arm (unaffected) on the table with the elbow bent, without moving it
- Place the painful or affected arm on the table with the elbow straight
- Slide the arm forward without moving in the opposite direction
- Feel the shoulder blade move when doing this
The surgery and recovery process is long and taxing, with plenty of side effects and risks. Discuss the surgery process, including mastectomy recovery, lumpectomy recovery, and post-surgery care.
Follow these tips:
- Take prescribed medication
- Continue physical therapy and exercises
- Take a regular sponge bath
Recovery time depends on the type of surgery you undergo. In general, you can recover within two to three weeks.
The pain lasts 2 to 4 weeks until swelling and bruises go away.
Discuss this with your surgeon as it depends on your recovery speed and condition. Typically, women start driving after ten to fifteen days.
Massage or compression therapy works best, especially if you have had a mastectomy.
Scarring is a natural process during any surgery and is hard to avoid. However, there are ways to diminish their appearance after breast cancer surgery.